After a guilty absence from blogging, I am still trying to catch up with myself. As well as reading Any Human Heart by William Boyd, I also recently read Books Do Furnish A Room by Anthony Powell.

Books Do Furnish a Room by Anthony Powell

I have been slowly working my way through this series over the last four years, but realised recently that I had not read an instalment since finishing The Military Philosophers last September. (Incidentally, that’s one of the nice things about keeping a blog (or ‘web log’ as they were originally called): that I can look back over the fiction that I have read through time.) Anyway, I am now nearing the end of the series as this is book ten of twelve in Powell’s epic series, A Dance to the Music of Time.

The previous instalment covered the last days of the Second World War and ended with our narrator, Nick Jenkins, being discharged from the Intelligence Corps and going through the symbolic act of choosing some civilian clothing once more. Books Do Furnish A Room is set shortly after this in the winter of 1945/6, with post-war austerity forming the backdrop of the action.

I do not have time to write much (plus, I figure that the casual reader is not likely to be too interested in book ten of a twelve-part series, unless they happen to also have read it). However, highlights from this instalment include Quiggin & Craggs starting a new left-wing magazine named Fission, which is partly funded by Widmerpool, who is now an MP. Nick becomes a book reviewer for the magazine so there is plenty of contact with these old contacts, as well as some new characters, including Ada Leintwardine, a glamorous secretary turned writer, and the bohemian writer X Trapnel (pictured on the front cover of my edition, above).

It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them.

In other news, Kenneth and Pamela Widmerpool’s marriage continues to be as rocky as ever, and Pamela manages to cause several scenes, including one where she vomits unceremoniously into a large ornamental vase.

Despite such behaviour, the eccentric, romantic, troubled, and mysterious X Trapnel soon falls desperately in love and Pamela and the two embark on an ill-fated and stormy affair. When this liaison inevitably breaks up, Pamela throws the manuscript of Trapnel’s unpublished novel into the canal, where it sinks, along with the once great writer’s literary hopes.

Let it suffice to say that this is another entertaining read, with Powell (through his narrator, Nick Jenkines) as perceptive as ever at observing the finer details of people’s lives and then exploring the possible motivations that lie behind the actions. In fact, now that I’ve finished this, I think I will move straight on to the next book in the series: Temporary Kings.

After all, books do furnish a room.