‘The Military Philosophers’ (‘A Dance To The Music Of Time,’ Book Nine) By Anthony Powell

63f5491de9bb3f204d274501fccbe53dIn retrospect, the key moments are easy to see, but that the time, huge swaths of the world might not even have known they occurred.

Today, we can point to the German war machine’s failure to (quickly) take Stalingrad as the moment when Hitler’s defeat became inevitable. But a low level British officer serving in England might not even have known that ‘Stalingrad’ was a thing.

That’s how I understand the way the war passes in this book. Jenkins is working with various liaisons to the British allies on the continent (the Belgians, the Poles, Free French, etc.). Things that I, as an American living seventy years later, know to be crucial, are mentioned only in passing by a character involved in his own work. For me, the reader, World War II, in this book, ended suddenly, but only because I was denied the usual markers.

The niece of Peter Templer, one of Jenkins’ school chums, plays an important role in this book. Powell, unfortunately, tends to slut shame her a bit. At least she is portrayed as strong and independent, even if I did cringe at the constant, implied disapproval of a sexually active young woman.

Widmerpool, who has twice before gotten involved in obviously inappropriate women (inappropriate in the sense that they were clearly bad matches; but it seems that he secretly longs for powerful, outspoken and sexually aggressive women to upset his sense of control and equilibrium), becomes engaged to this niece, Pamela Flitton.

In a public row, she accuses Widmerpool of arranging for her uncle to die. He denies it, but, of course, the reader is intended to see it is obviously true. Templer was posted with a particularly guerilla group and Widmerpool helped pull support for that group and Templer subsequently died while attached to those resistance forces. Incidentally, Stringham, who was sent to the Far East, died when the Japanese took Singapore.

Pamela is not very precisely described (black hair, fair skin), but Powell does something, because I am incredibly attracted to the fictional, unattainable woman. It gnawed at me while I read it. I don’t know what he did, but whatever it was, kudos. Great writing.

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