Friday, October 10, 2008

Hearing Secret Harmonies - post I

Right here we go. The last book, the promise of loose ends being tied up and although you sense this is going to again be about Widmerpool you want to see what happens to Jenkins.

The clock has ticked on from the last book and now a slowing Jenkins is involved as a judge on the Magnus Donners biography book prize. Totally embroiled in the literary world this book opens with a feeling that unlike the war novels or the school starts and Oxford this is really describing Jenkins in his own world.

There is more mention of his wife as a result and the chapters come faster than in some of the other novels. That gives it a pace that us fuelled by the move towards a meeting between Widmerpool and Gwinnet the American that Pamela Widmerpool fell in love with before her death. Piecing together the story it seems that knowing of his obsession with death Pamela took her own life to satisfy her lover.

But that is nowhere near as strange as the figure of Widmerpool who has become a university chancellor and also some sort of hippy and cult leader. He seems to have renounced all that he previously worked so hard for.

There is a sense that this is an era of cults, drop-outs and protests against the Vietnam war and the establishment and there is a passage where Jenkins allows a small-scale cult leader, Scorpio Murtlock, to camp on his land.

These books have been about the quest for power, the way it consumes, changes and destroys people and the society that helped create people like that. In some respects this is a historical novel but in others it is totally contemporary because the lust for power continues today as much as ever.

More tomorrow…

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