The plan was to read the first three books and then take a break but before that thought even had a chance to settle the fourth book had already been started.
There is something very comfortable about the world described by Powell. No one ever seems to get hurt, even after losing their wives or their fortunes, and the same small circle of people keeps widening but always via a connection that has already been made.
So in this case Lady Molly is introduced via a relationship with an old couple that Jenkins was introduced to as a child. But the result is that he is reintroduced to the Tolland family, which is blighted by an odd son and a daughter in an apparently scandalous lesbian relationship. The lesbian theme is another echo of the Proustian world that Powell is so often credited with putting a British spin on.
There are a few lines here and there that bring you up to speed very quickly on the fact that jean Templer has got back together with her estranged husband and as a result the relationship with Nicholas is over.
There are also a few hints that Hitler is in power in Germany and there is a growing sense of unease among the politically aware. There is also a reference to Nicholas’s job as a scriptwriter as part of the quota system that was designed to protect the British film industry.
But as usual what keeps this moving along is the colourful characters and the inevitable appearance of Widmerpool – this time engaged to a woman older and more charismatic than he could ever be.