Monday, 27 March 2000

Anthony Powell: Books Do Furnish a Room (1971)

Edition: Heinemann, 1971
Review number: 462

The final, postwar, trilogy of A Dance to the Music of Time opens with Books Do Furnish a Room. Nick Jenkins returns to his literary endeavours by researching a book on Richard Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, at his old Cambridge college. However, he soon becomes involved in a left-wing publishing company, partly financed by Kenneth Widmerpool, now an MP in the new Labour government. He helps to run the short lived literary magazine Fission, whose editor's nickname forms the title of the novel (he once spoilt a seduction by being surprised by his surroundings into making this comment at a passionate moment).

Thw war seems to have changed relatively little in Nick Jenkins' world, though it had more effect on Widmerpool: much of the novel is taken up with the strange behaviour of his beautiful but neurotic wife Pamela, whom he married suddenly during the fighting.

Pamela Widmerpool adds a measure of interest to an otherwise rather dull group of characters, but I still find it hard to see the significance perceived in the series by so many critics of the time.

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