Surfing on the web the other day to browse some more information about Anthony Powell I stumbled across a review by Max Hastings of a Powell biography. In a piece that makes it clear he not only doesn't like the sound of Powell as a person he also states that he was overshadowed by Evelyn Waugh. They were of course contemporaries and so it is natural to make comparisons between them. But it would be good to think there was a place in the world for both of them.
The Sword of Honour trilogy is on the list of 110 books you should read that was in The Sunday Telegraph list yesterday. The reason for starting it though was not that list but a sense that this would complement Powell in the sense that as he nears the war here is a trilogy set just a couple of years ahead.
Having said that it starts in Italy not London and with a rather confusing family tree that you try to get through to settle on a central character. After a few pages Guy Crouchback emerges as the focus and he shuts up the family home in Italy and heads back to London to join up and make a difference. On his way out of Italy he is reminded everywhere of Mussolini’s image but his fascist supporting cab driver believes there will be no war because nobody wants it on either side.
Back in London it does feel a bit like Dance to the Music of Time with Guy doing the rounds of the clubs bumping into old acquaintances who are all in uniform. he finally manages to get into uniform and then the fun starts. There are a couple of comic moments where some real characters are introduced into the story. leading them with his monocled stare and blood thirsty stories of war is Colonel Ritchie-Hook, who seems determined to train his soldiers to die as quickly and gloriously as possible.