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At Lady Molly's

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A twenty first century twist they’re available only as e books At Lady Mollys by Anthony Powell Crappy At Lady Mollys With unabated invention Anthony Powell continues his beautifully wry account of the conventional English scene of a generation ago to which he introduced us through the persons of Widmerpool Templer stringham Uncle Giles and the rest of that remarkable crows in At Lady Molly's Infogalactic the planetary At Lady Molly's is the fourth volume in Anthony Powell's twelve novel seuence A Dance to the Music of TimeA first person narrative it is written in precise yet conversational prose Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize At Lady Molly's is set in England of the mid s and is essentially a comedy of manners but in the background t. This is the fourth

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10 thoughts on “At Lady Molly's

  1. says:

    4 AT LADY MOLLY'S The two year’s gap between the 3rd and 4th volume brings us to what seems a different ballroom with different dancers and at first I feel as if I had lost my footing At Lady Molly’s is a different mansion Eventually though I realise the music is not really different Same pace same harmonies – just some variation in the melodies Powell’s addictive writing and tune soon draws me into the whirls and swirls and then as some of the dancers from the previous volumes gradually stream into this new salon I regain my balanceAlong this fourth volume we can also fell that Jenkins the narrator is gradually aging How Powell manages this so subtly baffles me Because along all these ballrooms there does not seem to be a mirror hung anywhere No self reflections Instead we can only see portraits And indeed how punctilious and exacting these portrayals are Nothing seems to escape the sharp eye almost surgical of Jenkins He is almost like our peek hole But he is not He is part of the action part of the plot and the memories and recollections are his And yet they never reveal much about him All his attention is directed elsewhere like that of a meticulous portraitistBut all along the long gallery of portraits there is one which consistently stands out He was after all the first dancer of the Dance And even though Widmerpool is so very creepy and such a ‘gauche’ dancer I am infinitely amused whenever he walks into the ballroom and steps onto the limelight He is the where is Wally? of Powell’s dance Where is Widmerpool?He certainly was At Lady Molly’s and left his uncanny mark


  2. says:

    The first volume of Summer the second of four trilogies of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time Synopsis followed by What I ThoughtIn this synopsis I've used Hilary Spurling's brief overview of the chapters to remind me of the narrative threads in each of them; see Invitation to the DanceThis segment of the Dance takes place in 1934 The first chapter commences on the New Year The series’ first person narrator Nicholas Jenkins is now in his late twenties working in the low grade film industry as a scriptwriter He’s taken to a party by Chips Lovell at Lovell’s aunt’s place The aunt is Lady Molly Jeavens who has graciously bestowed her name via the handiwork of Powell to the book The typical party banter of Powell’s novels here produces among other new revelations of time’s passing the unexpected news that Jenkin’s long time acuaintance Widmerpool from school and college is engaged to be marriedThe second chapter involves lunch with Widmerpool a tea attended by Jenkins at which he is uizzed about Widmerpool by the latter’s soon to be in laws and a chance encounter with JC uigginSince we had been undergraduates together my friendship with uiggin moving up and down at different seasons could have been plotted like a temperature chart Sometimes we seemed on fairly good terms sometimes on fairly bad terms; never with any very concrete reason for these improvements and deteriorations However if uiggin thought it convenient to meet during a ‘bad’ period he would always take steps to do so having no false pride in this or any other aspect of his dealings with the worldIn this instance uiggin indeed does have a reason for meeting with Jenkins and invites him out to uiggin’s cottage for a weekendChapter three finds Jenkins having accepted such an invitation and taking a train out from London where a taxi meets him at the station and conveys him to the “cottage” Jenkins was hesitant about the get together knowing that uiggin was now living with perhaps even married to Mona the former wife of one of Jenkins best friends from school whom he had ‘run away’ with As Jenkins had reflected before accepting the invite I was unwilling to seem to condone too easily the appropriation of an old friend’s wife; although it had to be admitted that Templar the old friend himself had never been over sueamish about accepting within his own circle such changes of partnership Apart from such scruples I knew enough of uiggin to be sure that his cottage would be than ordinarily uncomfortable Nothing I had seen of Mona gave cause to reconsider this want of confidence in their combined domestic economyDuring the visit uiggin’s patron and landlord “Erridge” stops by unannounced It is decided that the next evening they will have dinner at Erridge’s estate Thrubworth Park a couple miles through the woods Erridge is the Viscount Erridge also the Earl of Warminster the eldest of the Tolland clan an “erratic and high minded social revolutionary” At the dinner two of Erridge’s sisters drop by The first sight of one of these Isobel occasions our narrator to remark Would it be too explicit too exaggerated to say that when I set eyes on Isobel Tolland I knew at once that I should marry her? Something like that is the truth certainly nearer the truth than merely to record those vague inchoate sentiments of interest of which I was so immediately conscious It was as if I had known her for many years already; enjoyed happiness with her and suffered sadness I was conscious of that as of another life nostalgically remembered Then at that moment to be compelled to go through the paraphernalia of introduction of ‘getting to know’ one another by means of the normal formalities of social life seemed hardly worth while We knew one another already the future was determinateThe fourth chapter takes place as Widmerpool’s wedding is approaching a month or two after the previous The location after some initial moving about of the pieces on the playing field is a pub in Soho Jenkins finds himself against many odds drinking with Jeavons Lady Molly’s husband who happened to be in the pub when Jenkins entered by himself Jeavons supplies Jenkins with several surprising stories of times gone by involving both Jeavons and others of the characters involved in the DanceThe final chapter takes places in the fall of 1934 once again at Lady Molly’s The party has been arranged subseuent to the engagement announcement by Jenkins and Isobel Fate has twisted for Widmerpool and during much of the party Jenkins is closeted with General Conyers who reveals to him his knowledge and psychological analysis of the Widmerpool episode Widmerpool himself has the last word You know Nicholas it is wise to take good advice about such a thing as marriage I hope you have done so yourself I have thought about the subject a good deal and you are always welcome to my views What I Thought about 1 Powell's writing styleIf this is the first review you have read of Powell’s Dance you should take particular care to note the uotes above and below All of these illustrate one of the two things about these novels that appeals so inordinately to me That is the superb phrasing and word choice he uses particularly in the internal narration by Jenkins The dialogue of which there is a fair amount is not so much in this style which is probably just as well But for the narrative passages Powell never uses the same important noun or verb twice in the same sentence and generally not even in the same paragraph This leads to writing which sparkles with unpredictability and freuently with a delightfully humorous glow as wellHere’s one final extended uote from the party in the last chapter that illustrates the comedy that occasionally emanates from Powell’s meticulous prose The guests seemed in fact to have been chosen even at random than usual Certainly there had been no uestion either of asking people because they were already friends of Isobel or myself; still less because Molly wanted either of us specifically to meet them All that was most nondescript in the Jeavons entourage predominated together with a few exceptional and reckless examples of individual oddity I noticed Alfred Tolland was standing in the corner of the room wedged behind a table talking to – of all people – Mark Members whom I had never before seen at the Jeavonses’ and might be supposed in principle beyond Molly’s normal perimeter wide as that might stretch; or at least essentially alien to most of what it enclosed To describe the two of them as standing looking at one another rather than talking would have been nearer the truth as each apparently found eual difficulty in contributing anything to a mutual conversation At the same time the table cut them off from contact with other guests 2 TimeThe other appeal of the Dance is of course the magnificent theme of time’s passage or put another way of the characters’ and our own passage through time Over and again Jenkins tells us how through a conversation or simply though observing another of the characters playing his role in a given scene he suddenly becomes aware of something which he never suspected before either about that character that character’s relationship to another character about his own relationship to this or some other character; or even a general truth about himself and most of us along with him The Dance That great dance of life in which we swirl our way across the years observing and discovering the changing relationships between ourselves our loved ones our friends and acuaintances the ever changing judgments we make of the fortunes driving forces and characters of these people as they approach recede disappear and reappear as they dance to the music of time


  3. says:

    Summer arrivesLife jogs along apparently in the same old way and then suddenly your attention is drawn to some terrific change that has taken placeLife hardly ever turns out to be what it was expected to becomeAnd the narrator looks around and keeps wonderingSo often one thinks that individuals and situations cannot be so extraordinary as they seem from outside only to find that the truth is a thousand times odderThe novel At Lady Molly's mostly concerns matrimonial prospects of a social climber Kenneth Widmerpool who was earlier defined as a ‘frog footman’ which description suits him perfectly I guessAnd one character commented on his chosen one“Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with but they’ll marry anybody”And what about the other female personages?“A lot of social butterflies that’s all they are”Summer is a season of butterflies and men are catchers


  4. says:

    Woman may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with but they will marry anybody― Anthony Powell At Lady Molly's Marriage as I have said is a form of action of violence almost; an assertion of the will Its orbit is not to be chartered with precision if misrepresentation and contrivance are to be avoided Its facts can perhaps only be known by implication It is a state from which all objectivity has been removed― Anthony Powell At Lady Molly's'At Lady Molly's' is the fourth book of 12 or the first book in A Dance to the Music of Time 2nd Movement If you prefer to think of Anthony Powell's rhymes with pole's not towel's masterpiece cycle in terms of months 'At Lady Molly's' is AprilThis novel like most all of Powell's novels so far brings in new characters allows old characters to flow through and generally pushes time forward a few years I've heard many descriptions of Anthony Powell's narrative Some describe it as a dance obviously that Powell choreographs Some describe it as a symphony where themes and instruments appear play their part and remain silent for a couple minutes only to reappear in slightly different circumstances and dress I am reminded a bit of Degas' experimentations with monotypes He loved to play with the process of printmaking How the printmaking process could smudge and press his ideas with either dark fields or light fields His images of people and landscapes would emerge out of darkness smudged reflections would arrive from the plates He would create multiple images from the same plate that would allow him to create ghost images He would let the press express through colored smudges the idea of movement I think Powell is playing with some of the same ideas Through time and memory faces blur but the dance continues People spin into focus briefly and then spin away That is the cycle of life and relationshipsI also like the appearance early in this novel of Lord Alfred Warminster or Erry short for Erridge or Alf This character is largely based on George Orwell a contemporary of Anthony Powell and classmate and friend from Eton who operated in many of the same circles Orwell and Powell were actually very close for several years and Alf seems to be Powell both celebrating Orwell and poking gentle fun at his talented leftist friend In fact Powell and Orwell were so close that at Orwell's funeral in 1950 Powell was the one who selected the hymns Reflecting on this Powell wrote The Lesson was from Ecclesiastes the grinders in the streets the grasshopper a burden the silver cord loosed the wheel broken at the cistern For some reason George Orwell's funeral service was one of the most harrowing I have ever attendedAnyway like Proust it is easy to get caught up in the talk the movement Whereas reading Proust always reminded me of participating in a lucid dream reading Powell seems like being fairly toasted at a beautiful party or well a dance


  5. says:

    This is the fourth volume in the twelve novel “Dance to the Music of Time” The books are organised in terms of the seasons and so the first three novels are the Spring of our narrator’s life consisting of A uestion of Upbringing A Buyer’s Market and The Acceptance World This novel is the first in the Summer This begins in 1934 and follows many of the characters we have already become fond of as well as some new introductionsThe last novel The Acceptance World saw Nick Jenkins just embarking on a career in publishing The Bright Young Things of the 1920’s are now growing up and embarking on marriages – and divorces You have a sense that Nick feels he is somehow being left behind His affair with Peter Templer’s sister Jean is over and later in the novel he meets a woman that he feels he will marry However like much of the romantic affairs in this book it all feels rather tired and inevitable rather than romantic and wonderfulCentral to this book is Kenneth Widmerpool who to our narrator’s surprise has become engaged This engagement and other characters reactions to it continue as a thread throughout the novel Widmerpool was of course at school with Jenkins and his childhood friends Templer and Stringham Now Templer’s first marriage has broken down while Stringham is drinking heavily We also meet up with other familiar characters; including uiggins and Mark Members Jenkins is now a published author but there is still a feeling of dissatisfaction and impermanence about both his life and career while Widmerpool is on an upward trajectory – the unlikely success forging aheadAs well as personal relationships the novel also explores the era the books are set in At one point in the novel characters wonder whether there will be another war Still although dark clouds are on the horizon nobody yet seems that concerned about any immediate danger Life for Nick and those around him goes on and I look forward to reading the next novel in the series – “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant”


  6. says:

    At Lady Molly's is volume four of the A Dance to the Music of Time series and is Anthony Powell yet again at his best Once again I cannot praise the A Dance to the Music of Time series highly enough It's deliciously addictive and an absolute pleasure to read Imagine if you will the best of Evelyn Waugh when he's dealing with a large number of disparate characters eg Sword of Honour and Brideshead Revisited and following some of your favourite characters from these books throughout their lives add in the kind of twists and turns you'd find in superior soap operas then sprinkle liberally with the humour of someone as gifted as PG Wodehouse and all written in an accessible beautiful and lucid style A Dance to the Music of Time is utterly fantastic and gets better and better as the characters become familiarIt's now 1934 and Nick Jenkins is working as a scriptwriter and At Lady Molly's sees Nick finally embrace the adult world completely It's the first time we encounter Nick making a proactive decision rather than passively observing what is happening around him At Lady Molly's also introduces us to a large number of new and diverse characters who I'm guessing will continue to play significant roles as the Dance progresses The key character is the eponymous Lady Molly who whilst she only appears in two scenes provides the meeting places for diverse and eclectic characters to interact Needless to say we encounter Widmerpool once again and as always in many ways he is Nick's alter ego and the star of the show Despite having yet ignominy heaped upon him he continues his reinvention and upward trajectory as his evolution from school boy nerd to driven and successful businessman continuesTwo tips for anyone reading the A Dance to the Music of Time series1 I referred to Invitation To The Dance by Hilary Spurling when I needed to remind myself who's who and recommend it It's a fantastic resource and a good read in its own right2 wwwanthonypowellorguk has a character list synopsis and some excellent essays that throw light on various aspects of the book and further enrich the reading experience45


  7. says:

    In 1934 Nick is working as a scriptwriter for the film industry He meets a new group of people at Lady Molly's and gets to know the Tolland family Nick is courting Isobel Tolland but we find out very little about their relationshipWidmerpool shows up uite often in this fourth book of the series and gets involved with an unusual older woman There are many humorous events and eccentric new characters in this book Very entertaining


  8. says:

    The following passage was discovered in 2007 in an early draft of Anthony Powell's novel At Lady Molly's It was presented at a joint meeting of the Anthony Powell and Sigfrid Siwertz societies held earlier this month in Stockholm where it was the occasion for considerable debateI suddenly realised that the person talking with Sir Magnus was General Conyers whom I had not seen in over a year I scanned his face anxiously at that age senility can set in with terrible suddenness but he seemed almost preternaturally unchanged A moment later he had moved over to join meYou look well sir I hazardedKeeping busy said the General That's the important thing Had I started reading Swedish when we last met?The rest of this review is available elsewhere the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons


  9. says:

    'Come along all of you' said Molly 'You must all see the monkey You too Tuffy You simply must see him' People say that you can meet anybody at one of the evening parties given by Lady Molly and Nicholas Jenkins is about to test the theorem when he gets invited by one of his new friends Chipp Lowell You can find anything at Aunt Molly's even lovely girls Are you coming? I'd like to very much The monkey residing in the bedroom of the host is actually one of the least controversial and surprising guests in the house Old acuaintances from the first three books are popping in and out of the limelight Tuffy Wheedon Dicky Umfraville an elderly reclusive gentleman that seems related to everybody else old school friends and old flames New names and their family connections are thrown at the reader Molly and Jeavons the hosts a general that trains poodles for hunting dogs Alf alias Erridge alias Lord Warminster an unconventional butler named Smith and a society lady that smokes like a chimney stack and swears like a soldier in the trenches even the pretty girls that are liable to make the heart of the still young Nick flutter All of them though are eclipsed by the dramatic entrance of the most ubiuitous character in the whole series view spoiler Life is full of internal dramas instantaneous and sensational played to an audience of one This was just such a performance The fiance was Widmerpool Based on this particular scene I have a fancy that Widmerpool should be played onscreen by Kramer from the Seinfeld TV series hide spoiler


  10. says:

    A third of the way through this uniue series and I expect I'll continue at a modest pace to work through to the end The narrator and the cast of characters that revolve around him continue to interest and at times fascinate I can't say that I loved this book or that I'm obsessed with starting the next one but the content so far fully justifies continuing to see where things will go and how the relationships will play outIn many ways one of the most intriguing aspects of the books and the series is how neutral unassuming at times passive vanilla unexceptional? Powell has crafted his protagonist It's not fair to describe Nick as a cipher but it feels that while he may be the axle around which the action spins his actions seem largely irrelevant to what animates each bookOn a book by book basis and particularly on a chapter by chapter or page by page level this is leisurely languid stuff Nothing jaw dropping but similarly reading the books is a comfortable and strangely compelling experience Today it's very much a period piece almost like reading a male centric Jane Austen in serial form or I'm guessing for some like watching Downton Abbey lots of parlor room banter social commentary abstract observation caste and status related jockeying etcOne thing I find striking is that while the story line at least so far evolves between WWI and WWII the books as I understand it were originally published from 1951 to 1975 Nonetheless it feels fresh and contemporary As literary historical fiction goes it's easy to see why it's stood the test of timeThis may seem obvious but my sense it would be a huge mistake to read these out of order


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