Saturday, January 2

A Question of Upbringing - Anthony Powell

Opening at an unnamed British public school in 1921 and closing during his first year at university, A Question of Upbringing begins the story our narrator, Nicholas Jenkins. We learn little of his own life and family, as Jenkins strings together reminiscences of his school days with the romantic Charles Stringham, daring Peter Templar (who is sent down after a string of practical jokes), and the plodding and clueless Windmerpool, branded an outsider his first day, when he wore "the wrong kind of overcoat." Through the course of the novel Jenkins' path randomly crosses his old school friends and Widmerpool, along with those of other characters, most notably during Jenkins' stay at La Grenadière in France to hone his French.
Starting the year off the way I intend to continue, I have not only started with a non-library book but the first in the acclaimed twelve-part series A Dance to the Music of Time, with the intention of reading one each month. God help me. Because I just didn't get the attraction. A Question of Upbringing is certainly not a strongly narrative or plot-driven novel, and nothing much seemed to happen. Neither is it character-driven, for I learned little about Jenkins and only glimpses about the other characters he encounters. There is certainly a strong sense of time, place and above all class, but that doesn't so much grab me.
I've been told that the books become more interesting and intricate with each installment, and that analysing each novel separately robs the narrative as a whole of its complexity, subtle nuance and character development. We shall see. - Alex

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