On the face of it, this book should have been a hit for me. It’s second in a twelve-part series which has been effusively praised over the past many decades: A Dance to the Music of Time. I read the first in the series- A Question of Upbringing– and was profoundly bored, but I thought that maybe it just needed some time to get off the ground. In hindsight, I can’t think of a single series I’ve loved that didn’t pull me in from the beginning. I should have paid more attention to that thought.
There’s no question that A Buyer’s Market is well-written. It’s just excruciatingly boring. It’s told from the point of view of a young upper-class Englishman coming of age in the early 1920’s. Not much happens, but I don’t mind reading books that meander through everyday life. In this case, I minded a lot. I felt like nothing ever happened, and worse, the not happening was horribly boring.
I have a high tolerance for boredom, as you probably already know. I can read pages and pages of exposition and opaque dialogue and be perfectly content. In fact, I’m currently reading a Julian Fellowes and enjoying it immensely, and his pace is pretty glacial too, filled with lengthy asides on the sociology of England. I don’t know what went wrong here.
I feel a bit like I’m pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. I know that Powell has a rabid fan base, and is loved by everyone from Graham Greene to Evelyn Waugh- both of whom I think are awesome. Powell is considered one of the greats of English literature, but I just don’t get it. I was heartened to read that V.S. Naipaul said: “it may be that our friendship lasted all this time because I had not examined his work.” Fortunately, Powell was dead by then.
I would give you a recap of the story, except I can’t really remember much. I finished this only a few days ago. It’s pretty much: Nick Jenkins, the protagonist, goes to a lot of London debutante balls, has some unrequited crushes and runs into old school friends. That’s it. The first book was similarly unmemorable. I was horrified to read that they did a mini-series based on this on British television in the 90’s . That poor audience. On the other hand, magical insomnia cure!