Aug 2013There’s a bit of a detour from the Virago reading today, as I’ve also been doing one of my readalongs with Matthew and Linda. This time we’re doing Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time”, which we all have in the four-volume set, each volume containing three books, and divided into seasons. So, Spring has sprung now and we’re into Summer. Then we have a Virago non-fiction title which depressed me somewhat … read on to find out why!

Anthony Powell – “A Dance to the Music of Time: Spring”

(5 June 2009; replaced copy bought January 2001 and lent to a neighbour at my old flats in London)

The first three in the twelve-volume sequence, in which our hero, or anti-hero (invisible hero?) Nick Jenkins, progresses through school, university and the beginnings of a rather quiet professional life in publishing and writing, taking him up to around the age of 30.

He’s somewhat of a cipher in a world of forceful and coruscating characters who whirl in and out of his life in what can almost be construed as a pattern – certainly a dance – and the comments on the fact that certain people seem to reappear with alarming regularity set the tone and themes for the rest of the sequence. Indeed, on a re-reading, one can see that the whole pattern is set in the first few paragraphs. Re-reading also means that I can enjoy wallowing around in the excellent writing (although some sentences can be a bit convoluted, with M rewinding his audio book and me casting my eyes back over some particularly long sentences when the grammar gets confusing). At least I can be secure in the knowledge that the author will make sure that you remember who’s who among the massive cast – he’s very good at tiny hints and reminders, or having other characters explain someone so you understand. Having said that, a diagram would be useful, too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that this book is a roman a clef, and pick up characters from the mid-20th century, however M is enjoying it as much as I am without worrying too much about all of that (I’m the one who’s a bit of a mid-century nut, I suppose). Very atmospheric, with some great set-pieces and visions of London and country houses, and I’m really looking forward to reading my way through it through the autumn.

Jane McLoughlin – “Up and Running: Women in Business” (Virago)

(02 April 2013)

I’ve obviously skipped ahead in the TBR shown above, picking out the Viragoes and related volumes for this All Virago / All August month. This was one that I bought from Any Amount of Books on our Easter trip to London this year.

It’s a survey of high-flying executive women and women business owners that was published in 1992 and based on research done in the few years previously, which looks at sexism, pay, family, etc. It actually makes rather depressing reading, because the author is so excited about the advances that women have already made and the positive prospects that lie ahead of them – well, of course, not much has really changed, with gender pay gaps still there, women pushed into part-time work, great swathes of professions where women are the workers and men the managers, issues around job security and families, the double shift of work and childcare, etc., etc. It does remind us that we have come a certain way, but were the achievements of these women stalled and have things really improved in the 20 years since the book was published? I’d love to read an update of the author’s opinions and research on the subject. Actually, she seems to have written a book about women and politics in 2009 which does accept that a lot of these gains have stalled – interesting!

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Currently reading: I’ve finished another Virago which I may review tomorrow. I’m reading two more non-fiction Viragoes which I hope to get completed soon, then I can fit a few more novels in by the end of the month. AV/AA isn’t going as well as I hoped it would, but maybe 18 plus the Powell was a bit over-ambitious!