Powell plays around with the sequence of events for the first time in the series in this volume which starts after the second world war has concluded. Very quickly though, there are flashbacks to people and places encountered during the early 1930s with the Spanish Civil War and the rise of fascism as the backdrop for events mostly with new characters.
The main theme is marriage with Nick himself finally tying the knot. However, it still frustrates me that although Jenkins has an opinion and even deep awareness of other characters’ lives, he seems incredibly unaware of his own. We have precious little detail of his marriage and none at all on how he feels about it or how it may have impacted his own life. This is despite his own wife suffering a miscarriage. Jenkins has become, to me, a cold character who, perhaps to escape dissatisfaction with his own life, has become obsessed with describing that of others.
This is definitely first-class prose, of that there is no doubt. And, particularly considering the span of the novel as a whole, the character development is a master class. But, like the character development in Proust, I found it lead to stretches which I found less than engaging. At least, unlike Proust, those sections are limited to tens of pages and not hundreds. No doubt they are important for the novel and, if I was better at reading novels, I’d be much more into it.
Somehow their lives all seems a bit pointless to me. Then again, we’re approaching the mid-point of the novel and, as with life, it’s when we approach middle age that we start to question the purpose of lives we seem so arbitrarily to lead at times. Perhaps, in that respect then, Powell has got this spot on. In fact, considering that the novel begins after WW2 with who knows what having happened to these characters by that point, perhaps Powell’s whole purpose is to emphasise that it’s only when life and death is at stake that we finally realise how important it is to treat every moment as significant.
The only character who seems to do this in Casanova is Erridge, vanishing to fight in Spain, an action which draws every negative reaction from derision to disbelief. In retrospect then, maybe Jenkins is realising that while the rest of them pottered through the 1930s, Erridge was the only one who realised the full value of life and what was worth dying for. Despite the clue left in the closing line, I think it’ll be a few more volumes before I see if any of this musing is anywhere near correct. I’m looking forward to finding out.
|RATING||No individual ratings for each book in the 12-volume A Dance to the Music of Time. Instead, I’ll rate the entire novel when I’ve finished it.|