Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5)

by Anthony Powell

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Featured image for Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5)

I’ve found the first four volumes of this series interesting but this is the first one I can definitely say that I’ve enjoyed. Nick has married himself off to one of the daughter’s from the large aristocratic Tolland family and this book felt like a volume from a family saga, even though most of the plot was still mostly concerned with the interactions between a few of his male friends.

I don’t think we’re ever going to find out much about Isobel, his wife, and he says as much himself, there’s a whole passage on the impossibility of talking about your own relationships. There’s a rather bizarre section early on in the book where we find out Isobel is in a nursing home but he says nothing of the reasons for that for pages and pages. Eventually Nick visits Isolbel but we don’t see her directly and it’s only when he gets together with several other males characters that there is a discussion about miscarriage. I think the indirectness with which the subject is approached is appropriate for the book though, that’s how things are in these times.

These times are the 1930s, and there is much talk of the abdication of Edward VIII and the civil war in Spain, making the time period more obvious than I’ve felt it to be in previous books. And in a way that made the characters more real. I felt the abdication and Franco could have been swapped for Brexit and Trump quite easily, and people would still be whispering about miscarriages.

Although we see little of Nick’s marriage, other than between the lines reading that it seems well matched and happy, there is much talk of marriage here. Moreland and Maclintick are the two friends of Nick’s who get most of the pagetime here - I struggled to keep the two M names separate in the beginning, especially when a pub called the Mortimer is also a feature - and the ups and down of their marriages are the main feature of this book. I’ve complained before about the near invisibility of women here, they are no longer invisible and I think I have less complaints, this is very much a series about a male take on the world, and the male-centricness is of its time, and part of what it’s recording.

The series has taken a long time to grow on me, but I’m really looking forward to the next volume now and hope I carry on enjoying it. It’s fun seeing the same minor characters appear and it is definitely more interesting now they seem to have accepted themselves as adults, it’s taken a long time!