Monday, 4 October 1999

Anthony Powell: The Valley of Bones (1964)

Edition: Penguin, 1968
Review number: 346

Wartime army service is the background to book seven of A Dance to the Music of Time. It is not active service, Nick Jenkins being sent to a unit which remains in Northern Ireland until the fall of Paris and the end of the book. This is a complete break from his normal life in London's literary circles, and so the characters from earlier in the series are almost totally absent. Even Nick's wife Isobel only appears on a couple of pages.

The Valley of Bones is a fairly unsurprising chronicle of the absurdity of wartime life in the army; there must be dozens of such books, including Spike Milligan's far more outrageous war memoirs. The more novels I read from A Dance to the Music of Time, the less I feel I understand the way that fifties and sixties critics raved about the series. They are certainly enjoyable to read, competently written, but lack (to my mind) significance.

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