The next instalment of A Dance to the Music of Time. Hilarious and richly, vividly and beautifully written. Reading these books is like browsing the luxuriant catalogue of a brilliant miniaturist. Here is Powell’s description of Dicky Umfraville:

“Wearing a dinner jacket, Umfraville was otherwise unchanged from the night we had met at Foppa’s. Trim, horsey, perfectly at ease with himself, and everyone around him, he managed at the same time to suggest the proximity of an abyss of scandal and bankruptcy threatening at any moment to engulf himself, and anyone else unfortunate enough to be within his immediate vicinity when the crash came. The charm he exercised over people was perhaps largely due to this ability to juggle with two contrasting, apparently contradictory tributes; the one, an underlying implication of sinister, disturbing undercurrents: the other, a soothing power to reassure and entertain. These incompatible elements were always to be felt warring with each other whenever he was present. He was like an actor who suddenly appears on the stage to the accompaniment of a roll of thunder, yet utterly captivates his audience a second later, while their nerves are still on edge, by crooning a sentimental song.”

The plot revolves around beautiful women, sexually ambiguous figures and a succession of parties, all narrated by the enigmatic Nicholas.

Superb.

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