The Soldier’s Art by Anthony Powell

The eighth in this wonderful cycle of novels, collectively known as ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’

The war continues and the narrator, Nick, endures the pointlessness and dislocation of army life with equanimity, or at least the dispassion appropriate to his role in the novels as the reader’s eyes and ears.

The shadow of war hangs heavy and several characters die, either fighting or in air raids. Characters recur, as they do in the course of any life, among them the recurrent characters’ recurrent character, Widmerpool.

Alcohol figures largely in this novel, more so than in the others I have so far read. Peter Stringham, who has been part of the narrator’s life since schooldays, reappears as a recovered alcoholic but one damaged by the experience of being one. And Bithel, an engaging character unfitted to life as an army officer, gets so drunk that he is dismissed. Ted Jeavons, an enigmatic figure who fought in the First World War but actually sounds very like the sort of older man one can bump into in London pubs and clubs, also reappears at second hand, and we are reminded of his fondness for extended drinking bouts in that great city.

One of the best so far. Can’t wait for the next one.


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