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A Dance to the Music of Time

With 2945 pages in total it's shorter than Strangers and Brothers (with 3732 pages) and almost exactly half of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight with its 5902 pages. Still, it's a rather long series, consisting a twelve individual books. While originally published as twelve separate books, the series is usually published in four physical books (or movements/seasons) called spring, summer, autumn and winter.

You probably know this, but you can find far more general information about A Dance to the Music of Time on Wikipedia.

Just before I read the books I saw the 1997 BBC television production. Actually, I had read about fifty pages of A Question of Upbringing when I watched the four episodes, where one episode corresponds roughly to one movement in the book-series. I liked the three first episodes quite a lot, but the fourth and last episode was quite different in style. Many key actors and actresses had been replaced, while others had make-up to make them look older. But I'm not going to review the tv-series here.

Anyhow, I brought the first movement on a short trek I did, and read it with a certain degree of pleasure. The books are, stylistically, very easy to read, even if the language is oftentimes somewhat artificially stilted. I constantly thought of Jeeves (as in P. G. Wodehouse), but maybe this is an accurate representation of the way people spoke at the time and social level pictured in the books. Well, it does add a certain flavour to the language.

The problem with this series is (just as I found with A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight) that it's too long. The editing done for the tv-series should perhaps have been done for the books too. Right now (just after having finished the first movement) I'm not sure whether I'll read the remaining nine books or not. I will definitely take a brake, and read something else for a while.

On the snippets of review found on the covers to the books I have I can see that many reviewers compare A Dance to the Music of Time with Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, with A Dance to the Music of Time coming out as the winner. I have read À la Recherche du Temps Perdu albeit some years ago and I definitely think it is superior to A Dance to the Music of Time. At least I think it is fair to say that À la Recherche du Temps Perdu has been far more read over the years, which might count for something.

Even Anyhony Burgess seems to hesitate on why A Dance to the Music of Time has made it to the list when he writes: "This is a work we may not always like, but we cannot ignore it." This sounds a little bit like the "[t]he work has to be recommended as a whole, but no reader who ignores the second half can be wholly blamed." he wrote about A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. Are these books included only because they are long?

I have decided against reading the remaining nine books in the series. I started reading the forth book, but it was just more of the same — very much more of the same. I think it might have been a mistake to watch the BBC tv-production before reading to books. But then, I don't have  to read all the books in the Burgess99 just because I have started  . . .

Status   Title Year of pub.   Pages
[Y] A Question of Upbringing (1951) 230
[Y] A Buyer's Market (1952) 274
[Y] The Acceptance World (1955) 214
[N] At Lady Molly's (1957) 239
[N] Casanova's Chinese Restaurant    (1960) 229
[N] The Kindly Ones (1962) 254
[N] The Valley of Bones (1964) 242
[N] The Soldier's Art (1966) 228
[N] The Military Philosophers (1968) 244
[N] Books Do Furnish a Room (1971) 241
[N] Temporary Kings (1973) 278
[N] Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975) 272

Copyright © 2009 Peter Andrén