Life has been incredibly busy again of late, but I’ve managed to keep up a small amount of reading. After finishing the quirky Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, I was not quite sure what I was in the mood for, but then remembered that I had not read an installment from Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time series for a while, so plucked this next volume from off the shelf.

At Lady Molly's by Anthony Powell

At Lady Molly’sis the fourth volume in the series and in it we find our protagonist, Nicholas Jenkins, is now approaching 30. Like the other volumes, the book is largely episodic in structure, detailing just a few memorable social occasions. In common with the first three books, there are further discussions about art, politics and the question of whether life can be lived entirely by the will, however the real theme of this installment is that of marriage.

Amongst Nick’s old circle of acquaintances, there have been a few new alliances lately, the most notable of which is the seemingly improbable engagement of the pompous Widmerpool to the much older and twice divorced Mildred Haycock. This news prompts Nick and his friends to ponder the mysterious nature of romantic relations and they engage in some amusing late-night musings about this topic. At one point Nick’s old friend Peter Templer quips that:

Women may show some discrimination about whom they sleep with, but they will marry anybody.

Whilst this strange new engagement of Widmerpool’s appears to be in its ascendancy, other of Nick’s acquaintances are having harder times with their own relationships, which further inspires Nicholas to ponder the numerous mysteries of love and marriage.  Then, towards the end of the book, Nick himself gets engaged at around the time that Widmerpool’s engagement is broken off. Nick’s own relationship receives comparatively little focus in his narrative, although there is a great closing scene where Nick meets the newly single Widmerpool again at a party and is given the following offer, from his characteristically self-important and deluded friend:

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.

Another entertaining installment, written in Anthony Powell’s subtle yet clever style.

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