Books Do Furnish a Room

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Books Do Furnish a Room
First edition cover
Author Anthony Powell
Cover artist James Broom-Lynne
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series A Dance to the Music of Time
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
ISBN 0-316-71544-1 (HB)
Preceded by The Military Philosophers
Followed by Temporary Kings

Books Do Furnish a Room is a novel by Anthony Powell, the tenth in the twelve-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time. It was first published in 1971 and, like the other volumes, remains in print.

The book conveys the atmosphere of post-war austerity in which the characters attempt to resume life before the interruption of the conflict. For the non-combatants this time-shift proves manageable, but others find themselves irrevocably altered by the experience, and ill at ease in a landscape that has changed both physically and socially.

Pre-war characters reappear, and a younger generation spearheaded by Pamela Flitton take the lead in the narrative. Some of Nick's contemporaries are seen to have become middle-aged and staid, others more radical.

A change in the political tide is conveyed with some satirical fun at the expense of the more doctrinaire figures. The introduction of the bohemian Trapnel moves the centre of gravity towards literature, with a discussion of naturalism in the novel recurring.

Plot summary

Jenkins returns to his old university library during the vacation in the Winter of 1945–46 to undertake research for a book about Robert Burton. He goes to see Sillery, who has a new secretary, Ada Leintwardine. Quiggin is starting a literary magazine called Fission, which is to be funded by Erridge ... except that Erridge dies suddenly.

Erridge's funeral at Thrubworth is disturbed by the late arrival of the Widmerpools, Quiggin, Sir Howard & Lady Craggs (née Gypsy Jones). Pamela Widmerpool causes a disturbance by leaving during the service. Later at Thrubworth Park Jenkins describes Erridge's library. Jenkins is then invited by Quiggin to join the staff of Fission; Pamela causes further trouble and on leaving is noisily sick into a large Chinese urn.

At the party to launch Fission, Nick first meets the importunate novelist X Trapnel (based on the real-life Bohemian dandy, Julian MacLaren-Ross); Trapnel eventually takes a fancy to Pamela.

Early the following year there are problems at Fission's publishers, Quiggin & Craggs. Trapnel has become infatuated with Pamela. Jenkins, dining with MP Roddy Cutts (husband of Susan Tolland) at the House of Commons, meets Widmerpool (now also a Member of Parliament). All three go to Widmerpool's flat where it becomes apparent that Pamela has absconded with Trapnel. Some time later Jenkins visits Trapnel and Pamela at their seedy flat and while there Widmerpool arrives to confront the adulterers.

Later in the year Pamela leaves Trapnel and in doing so throws the precious manuscript of his novel into the nearby canal. On a visit to his old school, Jenkins meets Le Bas and the reunited Widmerpools.

  • Adapted in part from material published by the Anthony Powell Society with consent

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