Of all the Powell books so far in the Dance to the Music of time series the last two, The Valley of Bones and The Soldier’s Art have been the most unsatisfactory to read.
The reason I think has to do with the timing. On the way ion on the train it struck me that both Waugh and Powell were writing about a time and experiences that they both went through but importantly at the time and for the few decades afterwards so did their readership.
Coming to this story, which is predominantly about the randomness of death and the politicalling of those looking for promotion, it is describing a world that is not only lost but of marginal interest.
At the end a rash of movement engulfs Jenkins, who seems for most of the time to be totally unable to control his own destiny. Widmerpool hears of a promotion to the Cabinet Office, other figures get promoted out of the division and even Stringham moves to the mobile laundry unit and accepts the prospect of death overseas as the unit is posted to the Middle East.
A telegram at the end asking Jenkins to report to the War Office in London is the bridge into the next novel. Hopefully with the last of the war novels it will return to a more accessible tale of colourful characters from the past.
However the death count is rising with the artist and womaniser Barnby being shot down at the end of the book to join the ranks of deceased with Lady Molly, Chips Lovell and Priscilla Tolland.
A review (so many to get through I apologise) will come soon…