Friday, 9 July 1999

Anthony Powell: The Acceptance World (1955)

Edition: Penguin, 1962
Review number: 286

A few years on from A Buyer's Market, and we are in the London of the early thirties, complete with hunger marches. But as yet the rich set in which Nick Jenkins moves have hardly been affected, though it is fashionable to take a left-wing political stance and demonstrate with the hunger marchers.

Why the gap? Well, the first few books centre around the relationship between Jenkins and his schoolfriends Templer and Stringham, and their acquaintance Widmerpool; it is only every so often that they meet, having moved as they grow up into slightly different circles in London society. In this particular volume, Jenkins begins an affair with Templer's sister Jean as well as meeting the others through school reunions. (Back in A Question of Upbringing, Jean was the first girl he felt attracted to.)

The main message which comes through from The Acceptance World is the superficiality of society and its response to the problems felt by the poor around its members. This somehow pervades the whole novel, though it is hardly ever explicitly mentioned. The title is a phrase used at the time to describe a particular part of the London Stock Exchange, but it equally well refers to the Panglossian attitude of the rich that is the theme of the novel.

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