Wednesday, April 16, 2008

book review - The Acceptance World

The title of the book refers to something that Peter Templer tells Jenkins he believes that Widmerpool is involved in. Some sort of UN trade delegation that can help him and some of his friends make a bit of money. The third in the Anthony Powell 12 book Dance to the Music of Time opus starts in familiar territory.

Just as the first book featured an odd meeting with Uncle Giles this starts with Jenkins visiting him at a hotel in Bayswater where another guest, the very odd Mrs Erdleigh reads his fortune predicting love as well as a reunion between her and Jenkins in a year. If the first book was about learning, the second about entering a world of bright lights, dances and intrigue then the third is about love.

One of the predictions Mrs Erdleigh makes is around the idea of two young men competing for the attention of an older man. Quiggin and Members fit that bill and they both compete for the attentions of elderly novelist Sir john Clarke, who under the influence of the young men becomes first a Marxist and then finally a Trotskyite.

Jenkins’s meets up with his old friend Templer and is invited to visit his house and dine with him and his wife Mona. The beautiful but argumentative Mona was before marriage a model that hung around Deacons studios. They row and when Quiggin is invited to liven things up he ends up being the excuse Mona needs to leave Templer.

Meanwhile Jenkins has renewed his acquaintance with Jean Templer, Peter’s sister, and they start an affair, which for Nicholas is intense and something that will hopeful continue if she fails to return to her estranged husband.

The start of the end happens the night of the old school reunion dinner where in a passage that is ripe with humour Widmerpool tries to shake off his old school image of being an oddball and speaks about his success. His speech contributes to his old housemaster la Bas having a stroke. Stringham arrives and now divorced has become a heavy drinker and Jenkins and Widmerpool together have to help him to bed.

This book has the feeling of being a moment when childhood and childish things are finally put behind Jenkins forever. The old school dinner is marred by the collapse of La Bas, the upstaging of the event by Widmerpool and the sorry state of Stringham. The bright lights and high hopes seem a million miles away for those starting to suffer some of the adversity that life is quite capable of throwing at people.

As a result this feels more of a swing back to a more personal narrative from A Buyer’s Market, where it was very much listing off the details of who was doing what at various balls and country houses. The background of London also starts to feature more prominently in the book as the proper setting where the dance is taking place. It starts to become a character on its own and a city that as Powell describes it has gone forever. Must have been a great place to be with wealth – mind you in many respects that is still the case.

Version read – Arrow paperback

No comments: