The Kindly Ones (Powell novel)

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The Kindly Ones
First edition
Author Anthony Powell
Cover artist James Broom-Lynne
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series A Dance to the Music of Time
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 254 pp
Preceded by Casanova's Chinese Restaurant
Followed by The Valley of Bones

The Kindly Ones (1962) is a novel by Anthony Powell that forms the sixth in his twelve-volume sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. Nonetheless the story stands up on its own and may be enjoyed without having read the preceding books.

The novel captures the dying fall of the period between the wars, relating the run up to the Second World War to the circumstances prevailing just before the Great War. Hints abound that the vulnerable are to suffer, just as those driven by force of will begin their advance. Widmerpool is portrayed as one such, and a harbinger of war. As ever, Nick is carried upon the tide of events, whilst seeking to do the honourable thing.

The Kindly Ones contains some of the most memorable scenes in the sequence including the appearance of the maid, Billson, naked when guests are being entertained, and the Seven Deadly Sins tableau performed at Stourwater Castle. The anticipated demise of Dr Trelawney is another such. Some notable - and intriguing - characters, like General Conyers and Ted Jeavons, are developed, in contrast to the little we learn of Nick.

Plot summary[edit]

This, the last volume before World War II, begins with a flashback to Jenkins' boyhood at the outbreak of the Great War. The day of the Sarajevo assassination sees General and Mrs Conyers lunching with Jenkins' parents, and Uncle Giles arriving unexpectedly for tea. Equally unexpectedly, the Jenkins' cook, Albert, gives notice. This causes the parlourmaid, Billson, who loves Albert but is loved by the soldier servant, Bracey, to appear naked in the drawing room. The occultist, Dr Trelawney, and his disciples are seen out for a run.

In Autumn 1938 Jenkins is staying with the Morelands at their cottage near Stourwater. Templer collects the party for dinner with the tycoon Sir Magnus Donners at Stourwater. After dinner all are photographed by Donners performing tableaux of the Seven Deadly Sins, as portrayed in the castle's tapestries; this triggers a nervous attack on the part of Templer's second wife, Betty. At the end of the evening, Widmerpool appears in army uniform on urgent business.

In Summer 1939 Nick has to clear up Uncle Giles's affairs after his death at a small seaside hotel, the Bellevue. This hotel is run by Albert (the Jenkins' former cook), and here Nick meets Bob Duport who, during an evening's drinking, tells Nick of Jean's series of lovers, a disclosure Nick still finds painful. In a scene suffused with black humor Dr Trelawney, now in the grip of drug addiction, anticipates his eventual expiration at the Bellevue.

Late 1939 finds Jenkins attempting to gain a commission in the Army, eventually effected by Ted Jeavons' brother. Nick re-encounters Moreland, now homeless but taken in by Lady Molly after being deserted by Matilda for Donners.