Britain – A Genetic Journey – Alastair Moffat

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The Ribchester Helmet – Roman

I’m really interested in the broad sweep of human history. I find books like Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond or Sapiens by Yuval Noah fascinating. They range freely, exploring general ideas and trends, and attempting to explain some of the riddles of human existence – who are we, why are we here, and how did it end up like this?

But the daily grind of traditional school history is boring. I can never remember which king is which, or whether the Corn Laws were a good or bad thing, and for who.

1066 and All That by Sellars and Yeatman was written for me. I’m personified ignorance when it comes to the Tudors, and in complete confusion over the Wars of the Roses.

But genetic research has added another dimension to our understanding of the broad sweep of human history, and I try to keep up to date with new discoveries as far as I can. I’ve seen Alice Roberts’ TV series The Incredible Human Journey and in a previous post I wrote about The Seven Daughters of Eve which was an early work on this topic.

Britain a Genetic Journey does go over lots of old ground, but it presents old information in an interesting and entertaining way, and introduces new ideas too.

The book opens with an account of the discovery of DNA, explaining the role of Crick and Watson, and pointing out why Franklin, some of whose ideas they stole, did not get the Nobel Prize – it can’t be awarded to dead people!

Moffat goes on to explain how technological advances allowed scientists to map the movement of DNA around the world through the mitochondria in maternal cells, and the y chromosomes in men.

We are all descended from one woman who lived in Africa approximately 190000 years ago. Mitochondrial Eve. As a Christian I don’t find this challenging. It does not surprise me that God took His time to get it all started, nor that it required pain, tears, toil and suffering. God was creating spiritual beings, not robots. They would need to make moral choices, and morality is built on suffering. Do unto others.

In any case the Jewish Bible gives pretty much the modern account of the creation of the world.

Let there be light: the big bang.

The separation of the water from the land;

the moon and stars;

first life in the sea;

then the plants;

finally the animals and man.

No other early creation account gets near to this and you have to ask how a small tribe in the Middle East could have got so close to the modern scientific sequence 3000 years ago without divine inspiration.

So Moffat gives us sections on Africa, and on the escape from Africa. He links ideas from geology and geography, focusing on rising and falling sea levels, and ideas about what the landscape in Africa and the Middle East was like over a hundred thousand years ago. In Europe we meet Neanderthal man and discover that everyone descended from the first small group that left Africa and survived has at least some Neanderthal DNA due to interbreeding.

Then there are cave paintings, and imaginative accounts of the prehistoric life of our hunter gatherer ancestors. It might seem obvious but this was the first book that explained clearly to me why all the cave paintings are in southern France and Spain. Moffat creates an imaginative picture of humans crouched in caves waiting for the spring snows to melt so they can slaughter the herds of migrating animals as they pass through the narrow defiles and gorges where the caves are situated.

Moffat reviews the transition in Europe from hunter gatherer communities to farming and the Bronze and Iron Age. This section is full of details about the technological developments that lead to change. He argues that skilled men moved into new areas often displacing the original menfolk, whose genes disappear, and marrying with the local women. He bases his evidence on DNA retrieved from skeletons in various places, and names the genes that show the provenance of different groups.

Copper was widely distributed across Europe, but Moffat argues that the mining and smelting was carried out not by the dissemination of skills from one community to the next, but by groups of skilled men who arrived in Britain and exploited their almost magical abilities to smelt ore. In one town in North Wales, close to the Great Orme copper mines, an unusually large number of men – about 40% – have genes originating from the Balkans. Moffat hypothesises that they brought their skills with them and settled down in Wales!

Moffat looks at ancient kings. He describes different kinds of burial traditions and grave goods, and writes about the cultures that coexisted in Britain, comparing the stone houses on the Scottish islands, the hill forts of southwest England and the ranging farmsteads of the south. He looks at two routes of migration into Ireland, one via Spain and the other Belgium, and shows how these differences manifest themselves in the genetic profiles of the modern populations.

When Moffat comes to the Roman invasion once again he goes into details that were new to me and quite fascinating. He turns up a Greek historian who wrote about Claudius’ invasion and describes the politics in Rome and in England too, giving a sense that we were really only witnessing an early version of 1066 along with broken promises and solemn oaths taken between rival kings in France and Britain.

He quotes fascinating details from historical sources that I did not know about, and I have read a lot of books on Roman history. Yawn you might say, but I have always loved the Romans. No idea why. Sorry!

Often Moffat uses direct quotations from historical sources which adds colour and realistic detail to the story.

And at each stage, as well as evoking imaginative pictures of life in Britain, Moffat keeps on returning to genetics. So its not page after page of science. But the bits of information he drops in are quite fascinating – like the 5000 Samarians that were stationed at Ribchester in Lancashire to keep them out of trouble in the Middle East!

At the moment I have not finished this book, so I’m not sure how much Samarian blood there is in the modern day population of Blackburn and Preston: but I can’t wait to find out.

I don’t need to say any more, or complete this review when I’ve finished the book. I hope that what’s here will whet your appetite to read on. It’s worth it, if you like that sort of thing!

 

 

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The Military Philosophers – Anthony Powell

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The volume brings to the end Nick Jenkins’ experiences as a soldier in the second world war. He has taken a step up the military ladder and is working as an allied liaison officer with the Poles in London. That takes him to the war office, the heart of war time London, though his role there is rather minor.

Once again we meet characters from Nick’s past, including old school friends and members of Nick’s extended family. The novel brings these two threads together in an amusing little story involving Widmerpool.

At the beginning of the novel we meet this recurrently inept and ridiculous character in his new job in the war office, where he has important duties to perform ensuring the safety of the nation. Yes, just as now, we were in safe hands.

Nick arrives at a meeting chaired by Widmerpool. Farebrother is there and it seems that his star has been outshone by Widmerpool’s. Peter Templer is also there, disgruntled and fed up with his role in the war. Widmerpool accompanies Nick walking back to the office, and it’s apparent that this moment of companionship is all an exercise in impressing his old school friend. Nick though is not really interested in Widmerpool’s politicking.

Later Nick finds himself driven around London by a beautiful young woman called Pamela Flitton. She is Stringham’s niece. We learn that he has been taken prisoner at Singapore, and is thought to be dead.

Pamela is magnetically attractive, with dark hair and very pale skin, but she is a difficult woman. Nick surmises that she gets off on torturing the men who fall for her. Even Peter Templer, ace seducer and womaniser has not been able to tame Pamela, which is one of the reasons he is so down about life.

Pamela is bad tempered, plays fast and loose, and seemingly ignores all the rules. Soon there are hints of her involvement with a foreign soldier, maybe an agent, of indeterminate nation, though claiming to be Polish. It seems that this indiscretion loses her the job as a driver, but she finds other fish to fry.

Later we meet her again. She is sleeping with Odo Stevens, Priscilla’s old lover, and now some sort of secret agent. Nick meets them in night time London, seeking escape from the interminable noise of the flying bombs by pacing the ground floor of their hotel. Odo is bullish and full of himself as usual, but Pamela cuts him down to size by cruelly describing his inadequacies in bed.

Another rave from the grave is also ambling round the foyer of the hotel: Mrs Erdleigh, Uncle Giles’ old flame, and one time spiritual accomplice of Dr Trelawney. She causes ructions by making predictions about Odo and Pamela’s future, leading to a massive row and the end of the relationship.

Later Nick is promoted and goes on a tour of Normandy and Belgium with various noteworthy representatives of allied nations. He meets the field Marshall – I guess this might be Monty as Nick makes various comments about his dress sense, referring to the famed sweater.

One night Nick stays in the hotel described by Proust in A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. I might be inspired by this to finally read a novel I should have read at university as part of my French course, but typically at the time, never did. I’m currently looking for an English translation with the French on opposite pages, if anyone knows of one.

Finally back in London we discover that Widmerpool is engaged to be married to Pamela. Talk about doomed relationships! She messes him about at a posh war office reception, arriving late, in scruffy clothes, and not bothering to be introduced, at the same time being late enough to ensure that Widmerpool will be late for a dinner appointment with some important government minister.

To further discomfort him she blames Widmerpool for Peter Templer’s death in the Balkans. Widmerpool had obviously been spilling state secrets and getting himself in a bit deep in an attempt to impress Pamela with his important role in the war. He tries to absolve himself of blame by saying he was not directly involved in the actual decision to abandon Templer to his nasty end, but Pamela has her nails in deep and keeps on pinching.

Finally at the service in St Paul’s to mark the end of the war Nick helps a South American diplomat to find a seat. Later this man introduces Nick to his wife who turns out to be Jean, Templer’s sister and Nick’s old flame.

Once again it’s a small world. Too small really. I may have said it before – but I could see why Powell hated FR Leavis so much. Leavis would have hated all these coincidences, and would have said so. For him novels had to adhere to psychological realism, and plots should never depend on twists of fate.

It’s just a different philosophy I suppose. A Dance to the Music of Time is not really a novel in the sense that Leavis would have meant. For him great writers showed human life in a way that ultimately would teach us how to be, one that would reveal moral values and universal truths.

Powell does a bit of this, but reading these books is more like sitting next to an old pal  on the sofa, and opening another bottle of port whilst he rambles on about his life and tells you about all his old pals. I like it for that.

The Soldier’s Art – Anthony Powell

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There is irony in the title The Soldier’s Art, because it’s obvious that many of the skills Nick develops and the tasks he completes in this volume have little to do with being a soldier, and even less to do with any art or skill. Nick is simply a military bureaucrat.

Nick’s boss, Widmerpool, attended the same school as Nick, and was the first character we met in volume 1. He was bottom of the pecking order, the butt of schoolboy jokes, and generally regarded as doomed to failure. So it is ironic that as the saga develops he becomes the most successful of the old boys Nick meets intermittently on life’s long journey.

It’s clear there is something special about Widmerpoool. His success is down to being single minded, hard working and seemingly without empathy. This allows him to navigate life in the army, and indeed life itself without allowing personal feelings or conscience to intervene or drive him off course.

And when Nick’s old school friend Stringham turns up as a waiter in Nick’s mess hall, we get a clear message that early success, manifest charm and popularity at school do not always lead to a happy and successful life. Stringham is off the booze now, but is a hollowed out figure, grumbled at and bullied by the officers as he serves them food, and clearly a spent force.

Nick feels some compassion and a little embarrassment at finding his old school pal serving him at table. He mentions this to Widmerpool, who instructs him to be more professional, and to get over it. However Widmerpool thinks again and transfers Stringham to the mobile laundry, despite knowing he is sending him off to a more dangerous post in the far east. Once again Nick worries about Stringham’s future but Widmerpool shows no such concerns. He simply does not feel empathy; he lacks a human dimension.

I suppose this inhumane element of army life is reflected in the way Powell opens this volume with descriptions of the army base and its offices. Here he compares the various functionaries to different Egyptian gods. To be honest I found this section a bit boring, and skipped through it.  I wanted to get on to what I think Powell writes about best, human relationships. But it might be worth going back to reread these pages at a later date. I can see that Powell put some considerable thought into them, using Egypt and its strange gods as a metaphor for the dead hand of bureaucracy. After all it was in Egypt that bureaucracy began. Ask Joseph.

I found the power play between Widmerpool and the other officers more interesting though. Anyone who has worked in a large institution will recognise the machinations and arm wrestling that goes on behind the scenes. The real agenda is always about personalities, and personal success, and rarely about the job in hand.

True to form this volume ends with an amusing confrontation in Widmerpool’s office in which Nick witnesses the changing fortunes of Farebrother, Hogbourne-Johnson and Widmerpool himself. First one and then the other appears to have gained victory in some minor struggle for power and advancement. Widmerpool sees success within his grasp, and to some extent it is, as he is promoted to the War Office in London, but not before he has to deal with some of his own personal failings. Powell does not let him off, and Widmerpool’s arrogance makes his momentary downfall even more entertaining.

Once again Powell introduces characters from across the army in this volume. Widmerpool sets out to prove that Diplock, Hogbourne-Johnson’s right hand man is embezzling money and goods. But Diplock is pretty smart as it turns out. And there is Stringham, and a drunken Bithel. Stringham and Nick attempt to show Bithel some compassion, and carry him through the streets to bed. But when Widmerpool gets involved he seizes on the opportunity to dismiss him. It’s the correct, professional choice, but not a humane act.

Another minor character commits suicide in The Soldier’s Art, and once again it is linked to marital infidelity, a theme that runs throughout the saga. This time it is Biggs, an officer in Nick’s mess, who is found hanging in the cricket pavilion.

Then Nick spends time in London where he meets Chips Lovell, Priscilla’s estranged husband. He tells Nick of his plans for a reconciliation and goes off to find her, but minutes later she comes in to the pub with her lover Odo Stevens. He is egocentric and a charmer, seeking adoration and praise from everyone in the group, including Audrey Mclintick, who is now living with Moreland. She is a flighty piece. In a previous volume she was receptive to Stringham’s drunken charms. Then she ran off with another musician, her lodger, leaving her husband to commit suicide. Now she is with Moreland, but is clearly flattered and possibly tempted by Odo Stevens.

Powell kills off one or two of these dissolute characters at the end of this volume, wielding the sword of justice in the form of a German air raid. Never say he is a man without a moral compass.

The Valley of Bones – Anthony Powell

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On into World War 2 with Powell’s saga of life in Britain in the twentieth century. It’s The Valley of Bones, and Nick has joined the army – a Welsh regiment. Powell also joined a Welsh regiment, and claimed he had a royal Welsh family history, so it’s hard not to see this as just more confirmation of the autobiographical nature of A Dance to the Music of Time.

Certainly The Valley of Bones gives Powell all kinds of opportunities to use Welsh cadences in his dialogue, and he’s very convincing in this respect when describing the barrack rooms, messes and hostelries he spends time in during the early years of the war.

Bithel, a fellow officer, claims a family relationship with a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross, and pretends to have been a rugby international, or at least of international standard. We meet him in the bar when blind drunk. His fellow officers rig his bed and watch the consequent shenanigans with amusement.

But rather than being shamed and undermined by the trick Bithel dances drunkenly around the bed as if making love to it. The officers are impressed by his ability to laugh off the unwanted joke by joining in so comically. But when Nick speaks to him the next day he realises that Bithel was too drunk to remember what happened, and clearly had no idea what he was doing at the time, in fact no idea at all that he had been the butt of a joke.

Bithel turns out to be a complete fraud and is terrified of the others discovering that he has no ability whatsoever as a rugby player, and no family links to a VC. He is just one of several new characters Powell introduces in this volume as he continues to explore the vagaries of human nature in many of its forms.

Nick’s commanding officer Gwatkin is an ambitious soldier. He wants to move on from the territorial regiment that they are currently in. But he makes a mess of a couple of things on manoeuvres when the company move to Northern Ireland for training, and his hopes take a crash.

Later Gwatkin falls in romantic love with a local barmaid. He confides in Nick and considers embarking on an affair, despite the fact that he has a wife at home. Gwatkin places the barmaid on a romantic pedestal, which amuses Nick, who thinks she is nothing to write home about. The reader is also amused when they bump into the barmaid having sex on a park bench with another soldier. Gwatkin comes down to earth with an amusing thud, realising he has failed in many military duties because he was busy dreaming about this girl.

Whilst most of this volume is set on army bases Nick does manage to get some leave, ending up at the home of one of his wealthy friends, and meeting various characters from his past including Jimmy Brent, a former lover of Nick’s old mistress, Jean. Nick listens with interest but does not comment as Jimmy spills the beans about his affair with Jean.

Odo Stevens, who makes costume jewellery, enters here, making a big impression on Priscilla, one of Nick’s relatives whose husband is away at the war. This episode echoes the recurrent theme of marital infidelity, as does the incident with Gwatkin. Indeed one of the sergeants in the regiment finds his life destroyed when he realises his wife has been unfaithful whilst he has been away. A neighbour writes to the regiment to divulge all, and the sergeant goes home to try to sort things out, but to no avail.

 

 

The Kindly Ones – Anthony Powell

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The Kindly Ones, the sixth volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, is quite different from the earlier novels. It’s the late 1930s. Munich is in the news and Nick and his compatriots are preparing for war.

Despite this the novel begins with a long retrospective about Nick’s childhood in the countryside near Aldershot. These reminiscences introduce us to a group of household servants, and to the intimate human relationships that take place below stairs. As a child Nick is able to witness these events, though he hardly understands them.

Dr Trelawney and General Conyers are prominent in this opening section. Trelawney hosts his disciples nearby and Nick often sees them jogging across the fields. They greet people with ritualistic phrases about enlightenment, though Nick casts doubt on how enlightened they are when he explains that one of the disciples ended up committing suicide as a result of Trelawney’s “ministrations”.

The themes of occultism and corrupted spirituality introduced by Trelawney are mirrored in NIck’s childhood home. One of the servant girls is in a state of nervous tension because she has been thwarted in her love for the cook, who has found a partner elsewhere. Believing she has seen a ghost in her bedroom, and in a fevered state of anxiety, she appears naked in the dining room  during General Conyers’ visit. The General is quick to take care of things, carefully wrapping her in a blanket before ushering her to safety.

Later Nick attends a dinner party at Stourwater where Donners photographs the guests as they form tableaux relating to the seven deadly sins. Templer is at the dinner with his beautiful second wife, stolen from her first husband. Now he has destroyed her self confidence by cheating on her. Events come to a climax when Templer plays the part of lust with a woman we assume to be his current fling, as his wife runs off in tears.

The death of Uncle Giles brings us face to face with the former cook, who is running a down at heel seaside hotel. This is typical of Powell: his characters meet over and over again in their at times improbable Dance

We know that Uncle Giles has dabbled in the occult from his previous appearances, and by coincidence Dr Trelawney is living in the same seaside hotel. Trelawney is a spent force, disabled by an asthma attack and stuck in a toilet. He is dependent on Mrs Erdleigh, the spiritualist we met in a previous encounter with Uncle Giles. She provides Trelawney with some mysterious white pills which seem necessary to his continued existence. It’s all very sordid.

Coincidentally another figure from Nick’s past is also at the hotel – Bob Duport, the former husband of Jean, Nick’s lover in a previous volume. Nick learns some interesting things about Jean’s betrayal not only of her husband, but of Nick himself. As it happens Duport is now working with Widmerpool, who has left Dupont in the lurch as the war begins.

It’s easy to see why, allegedly, Powell disliked FR Leavis. Leavis would have hated the role of coincidence in Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. For him the plot of a novel should arise from psychology and stay within the bounds of credibility. Powell does stretch belief at times like this, when so many characters just happen to appear in the same seaside hotel!

This novel ends with a section about the breakup of Moreland’s marriage to Matilda. She has gone back to Donners. Nick is searching for a regiment to join as the war begins,. Widmerpool, once seemingly doomed to failure, has already taken a post commensurate with his feeling of self importance. Nick though is sceptical of the true value of the military secrets Widmerpool claims to know.

This is my least favourite volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. Whilst there are amusing episodes and interesting characters, it does not have the same sense of cohesion as others in the series. The three main episodes – at Nick’s childhood home, at Stourwater and at the seaside hotel, are really just separate episodes jammed together.

One consistent thread though is the sense of emptiness and corruption. As we approach World War 2, the country does not seem to be in a great condition. It’s full of hypocrisy and sin, and really hardly worth defending, from what you can see in this book!

Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant – Anthony Powell

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Antony Powell chose Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant as the enigmatic title for this fifth volume of his epic A Dance to the Music of Time, because life is a restaurant. The menu is the romantic relationships life provides, exotic, varied and full of unusual flavours, some quite strange.

It’s a novel about love, marriage and infidelity, with a cast of eccentric characters, and a range of lovers. Some are Casanovas, able to charm the birds off the trees, whilst others struggle to find love or a partnership that works. Once again the narrator, Nick, observes these people, but passes little or no judgment on them.

The events take place in the 30s, but Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant begins after the war, as Nick walks through the bombed out streets of London. He passes a pub he used to frequent in the 1930s, and remembers the people and events of that time.

We soon find ourselves in the maternity home where Isobel, his wife has had a miscarriage. It is there that he first meets Moreland, whose wife Matilda has also lost a child. Moreland is a composer. Nick goes with him to the pub and is drawn into a world of  musicians and actors. I have said before, one of the reasons I like these novels is that Nick moves through the intellectual and artistic world of his time providing streetwise and contemporary insights into issues that are usually reserved for academic histories or biographies. But this episode is less about ideas, and more about the dangers of infidelity.

In the pub we meet Deacon, the painter, and Maclintick, , Gossage and Carolo, who are all trying to make a career in music. Deacon is buying a piece of antique porcelain off a budding actor who later becomes involved with a wealthy woman from Nick’s set. It may be platonic. Who knows? Powell typically waits until the end of the novel to tell us that the antique porcelain is a fake! It’s of course a belated and amusing comment on the salesman himself.

Once again the episodes of the novel revolve around social occasions – nights in the pub, high society parties, and home visits to down and out artists. Stringham enters, as drunk as ever, and is incredibly charming to Maclintick’s wife. Unusually Nick gives a clear visual description of this bad tempered and aggressive woman. She arrives at the post concert party in a pink floral dress with flouncy sleeves that is quite over the top.

She is a figure of fun, and Stringham soon drops her when the old family retainer arrives to take him away. This relationship is quite odd. She is much older than Stringham, and seemingly in love with him, though her presence in this scene is quite hard and professional – she is the one keeping Stringham from the booze, and seems to have devoted her life to this. Ah! The perils of true love.

Moreland has a wonderful wife. She is intelligent, and attractive by dint of grace and personality rather than sheer beauty, but Moreland seems to have become involved with one of Nick’s young female relatives. Meanwhile Maclintick’s wife leaves him for the lodger, a talented musician. They go to live in the North or the Midlands – for Powell always some god forsaken place devoid of culture or beauty.

It’s a sign of how much I like these novels that I can forgive him for that.

Maclintick becomes the victim of the infidelity of his wife. It’s a telling moral point at the heart of this novel.

Once again Powell has entertained, and shown us some truths about human life. Excellent stuff.

Anthony Powell – At Lady Molly’s

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Nick Jenkins is a privileged member of London society between the wars. It’s a good time to be alive in that milieu. The great depression rages around, but London is not much bothered. The parties and country house visits continue. There are still posh dinners to be had.

A Dance to the Music of Time is really a soap opera. That’s what hooks you in – the personal relationships, the snobbery, the whole human comedy. It’s a Dance because business partners, friends and romantic relations are contained within a closed group, as are the adulterous relationships . But the Dance is also the slow waltz of history, which Powell records sounding, faintly, in the background.

Nick’s  interpretation of these events is not one you can find in the history books. He is really divorced from it all, but at the same time he is there as a witness. He observes the effects of political and cultural change on the lives of the people around him with a kind of bemused detachment. It allows you to relive history in a way that a history book or a biography could never do.

Nick is working as a scriptwriter now, and this allows him entry into bohemian London, whilst his family and public school background give the reader access to homes of the decaying upper classes.

He becomes increasingly entangled in the world of the landed gentry, visiting Lady Molly at her busy home in Kensington, where he gets news of Widmerpool’s engagement to Mildred, a rather fearsome woman with a rapacious appetite and a colourful romantic history.

Later Widmerpool confides in Nick, and seeks advice about whether to attempt to seduce Mildred before the wedding night. Considering Mildred’s personal history a sexual conquest would seem inevitable, but typically Widmerpool messes up. He is a successful business man by now, but is still socially inept, and a tragicomic figure. When the night comes, he is yellow with jaundice, and forced to retire due to illness. This seems to reflect Powell’s implicit view that life’s successes are as much due  to fate or chance as to personal ability.

There is a wonderful scene in which Nick bumps into Jeavons, Lady Molly’s husband, in a nightclub in London. Jeavons, a former army captain, needs an occasional blow out and is drunk as a skunk. They meet Mildred, who turns out to have slept with Jeavons during the war, when she was a nurse. She is delighted by the reunion. Of course this whole episode throws an ironic light over Widmerpool’s failure.

This novel continues to explore Nick’s relationship with Quiggins, who has now become entangled with Erridge, Lord Westminster, and the stepson of Lady Warminster, Molly’s sister! It’s a tangled web that can be hard to follow at times.

Erridge is influenced by socialist politics, and not at all interested in the stately home which is going to rack and ruin. Quiggins is living in a tied cottage on Warminster’s estate with Mona, the beautiful model who used to be Stringham’s wife. Nick is invited down for the weekend, meeting Erridge and for the first time Erridge’s sister Isobel who will later become NIck’s wife.

The stately home is a ruin and the butler is a drunken thief, but Erridge is more interested in producing socialist literature, whilst Mona is quickly becoming dissatisfied with Quiggins and becoming quite amusingly grumpy.

It’s impressive that Powell can continue to interest the reader in what is now the fourth volume of this epic.