The Best English-Language Fiction of the Twentieth Century
A Composite List and Ranking
by Brian Kunde


<- Powell, Anthony, 1905-2000.
         Fall name: Anthony Dymoke Powell. English novelist, playwright, biographer and reviewer born in Westminster, best known for the twelve volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time, considered his masterpiece. Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956 and a Companion of Honour in 1988; declined a knighthood in 1973.
  • <- A Dance to the Music of Time (series). 1951/75.
             Powell's major work, a cycle of twelve novels published over nearly a quarter century and dealing with a large cast of characters drawn from bohemian life and high society in the period between 1921 and 1971. Many are based on real people. All the novels are recounted by a narrator whose life parallels that of the author. The title is from that of a painting by French Baroque artist Nicolas Poussin. Adapted to radio in 1979-82 and 2008, and to television in 1997.
    1. A Question of Upbringing. 1951. Three friends, narrator Nicholas Jenkins, Charles Stringham, and Peter Templer, along with their classmate Kenneth Widmerpool, characterized as artist, romantic, cynic, and man of will, are followed from their school days into maturity. The title is from a statement by a friend of the author prior to a near automobile accident.
    2. A Buyer's Market. 1952. A series of incidents from the experiences of Nick Jenkins as a young man. His three classmates from the previous novel reappear, along with the artist Deacon and his friend Gypsy Jones, with whom Jenkins becomes involved after Deacon's death.
    3. The Acceptance World. 1955. More glimpses of life in high society and the demimonde, the two worlds through which Jenkins moves, as he reflects on the different maturation rates of his acquaintances. Includes a satirical portrait of fellow author John Galsworthy in the guise of the character St John Clarke.
    4. At Lady Molly's. 1957. A comedy of manners presenting satirical views of marriages among members of Jenkins's circles, set against the backdrop of fascism's rise abroad. Awarded the 1957 James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
    5. Casanova's Chinese Restaurant. 1960. Reminiscences of Jenkins's early adulthood contrast with the novel's present of the mid-1930s as developments in the lives of characters old and new continue.
    6. The Kindly Ones. 1962. Memories of the period just before the Great War are juxtaposed with the build-up to the Second World War, centering on a dinner party in which the guests are photographed portraying the Seven Deadly Sins. Widmerpool is now in the army, and Jenkins too seeks a commission.
    7. The Valley of Bones. 1964. First of a trilogy on the war; The home front experiences of Jenkins, now a second lieutenant, illustrating the sometimes comic wartime inversions of the social hierarchy.
    8. The Soldier's Art. 1966. Second in the war trilogy; more machinations among Jenkins's army acquaintances resulting in various come-uppances, along with the deaths of some familiar characters in the bombings.
    9. The Military Philosophers. 1968. Third in the war trilogy; an ironic entry, covering Jenkins's career in Allied Liaison dealing with Poles, Belgians and Czechs, escorting Allied attachés on a tour of Normandy after the landings, and his demobilization as a major in the wake of the fighting.
    10. Books Do Furnish a Room. 1971. The characters try to resume their prewar lives amid the privations of postwar austerity. Literary life begins to take center stage, as do the domestic difficulties of the Widmerpools.
    11. Temporary Kings. 1973. A literary conference and events stemming from it explore the underside of the world of letters and art, while the Widmerpools' antagonisms spiral out of control. Awarded the 1974 W. H. Smith Prize.
    12. Hearing Secret Harmonies. 1975. Amid scenes of 1960s academia, a middle-aged Jenkins observes the winding down of Kenneth Widmerpool's life as the latter becomes embroiled in the hippie cult of Scorpio Murtlock.

Posted Dec. 17, 2013, and last updated Dec. 17, 2013.
Please report any errors to the compiler.
Published by Fleabonnet Press.
The source list data is public domain.
Additional material © 1999-2013 by Brian Kunde.