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  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780141030791
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $22.99

Anthony Powell

Dancing to the Music of Time

Captivating, immersive portrait of the acclaimed British novelist and high society wit - from one of our generation's foremost biographers

Peerless literary biographer Hilary Spurling turns her attention to Anthony Powell, an iconic figure of English letters. Equally notorious for his literary achievements and his lacerating wit, Powell famously authored the twelve-volume, twenty-five year magnum opus, A Dance to the Music of Time. This enduringly fascinating portrait of mid-20th-century Britain has never been out of print, inspiring TV and radio adaptations and elevating the author to The Times' list of fifty greatest British writers since 1945.

Master novelist, well-connected socialite and keen-eyed social observer, Powell comes into focus as never before in this authoritative biography from one of our generation's greatest biographers.

  • Published: 15 October 2018
  • ISBN: 9780141030791
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Hilary Spurling

Hilary Spurling won the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize for The Early Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1884-1919, and the Duff Cooper Prize and Heinemann Award for Secrets of a Woman's Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969. She is also the author of Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book, Paper Spirits and The Girl from the Fiction Department: A Portrait of Sonia Orwell. She has been Arts and Literary Editor of the Spectator, and a regular reviewer for the Observer, the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph.

Also by Hilary Spurling

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Praise for Anthony Powell

[An] excellent and vivid biography... exemplary and deliciously readable

The Guardian

One of our generation's greatest biographers

London Review Bookshop

Meticulous... Where Spurling excels is in her punchy analyses of his novels and her understanding of the writer's life

The Financial Times

Spurling has triumphed...A compelling portrait of a lost Englishman

The Observer

This is a fine biography by a writer who knew Powell well, and who understands how writers think

The Spectator

Witty, spirited, richly crowded with incident and character, and a joy to read


An accomplished biography of a great writer


Spurling has brought him to humane and generous life

The Daily Telegraph

A sharp, graceful writer who has immersed herself in the territory... wonderfully vivid

The Mail on Sunday

An accomplished biographer... her pen portraits are deft and vivid... brisk and bold in her evaluation of a character or retelling of an incident. Her comments on Powell's writing are always illuminating

The New Statesman

Anyone feeling gloomy in their early 50s, worried they've been leading rather a futile life for half a century, should read this biography

Daily Mail

[A] superb biography... beautifully written, meticulously tracked. Hilary Spurling shows a subtle understanding of her subject and his work. She demonstrates an almost uncanny ability to portray the huge cast of characters that floods in colourful profusion across the stage. Her identification of the originals of the characters in A Dance is masterly

The Oldie

An often surprising and always brilliant picture of English upper-middle-class intellectual life in the mid-20th century: drunkards, journalists, musicians, aristocrats, hangers-on and the odd genius. I couldn't put it down

Claire Tomalin

An exciting story, from its unhappy beginnings to its triumphant ending. You can't read this without your fingers itching to get at his Dance novels, whether for the first or the 15th time

Antonia Fraser

Written with an elegance that does full credit to its subject

Michael Howard

Meticulous biography. Spurling excels "in her punchy analyses of his novels and her understanding of the writer's life

Financial Times Books of the Year

Worth the wait; intimate and judicious, it doubles as an alternative history of a lost kind of Englishness

The Guardian

So readable... wonderfully vivid portraits of Powell's famous acquaintances

The Mail on Sunday Books of the Year

Richly and movingly enjoyable... a tapestry of Powell's contemporaries

The Times

Publisher's description. A biography of the comic writer Anthony Powell, author of the million-word masterpiece A Dance to the Music of Time, from renowned British biographer Hilary Spurling. An insightful and surprising look into what drove the writer widely regarded as the English Proust.


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