Casanova's Chinese Restaurant

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Casanova's Chinese Restaurant
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 Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 229 pp
Preceded by At Lady Molly's
Followed by The Kindly Ones (novel)

Casanova's Chinese Restaurant is a novel by Anthony Powell (ISBN 0-09-947244-9). It forms the fifth volume of his masterpiece, the twelve-volume sequence A Dance to the Music of Time, and was originally published in 1960. Many of the events of the novel were included in the television adaptation broadcast on the United Kingdom's Channel 4 in 1997, comprising part of the second of four episodes. There was also an earlier, more comprehensive, BBC Radio adaptation.

Exploration of themes of time and memory are developed here. As with several of the earlier volumes, there is a substantial time-overlap with previous books, the first part returning to the period before the death of Mr. Deacon. However, Casanova's Chinese Restaurant concentrates on a new set of characters, principally the composer Hugh Moreland, (based on Powell's close friend Constant Lambert), his fiancée Matilda, and the critic Maclintick and his wife, Audrey, whose unhappy marriage forms a key part of the narrative.

The interweaving of historical with fictional events is more notable here, and is deployed to illuminate the characters, as for example in Erridge's ill-considered departure for the Spanish Civil War. An unintended consequence is to reveal hints of the author's own conservative views, although these are not obviously attributed to Nick who remains Everyman in this volume.

The hospital sequence displays one of the first examples of Powell's handling of emotion, much of it repressed, but powerful nonetheless.

Plot introduction[edit]

The book opens with reminiscences of the late-20s/early-30s, concerning Nick's first meetings with Mr Deacon, Maclintick, Gossage, Carolo, Moreland and others, culminating at the point of Nick and Isobel's marriage, of which little is revealed.

1936 sees Nick lunching with various of the Tollands at Lady Warminster's. Erridge leaves for the Spanish Civil War. Nick visits Isobel in hospital where he meets Moreland attending his wife Matilda, who is about to give birth, and also encounters Widmerpool. Moreland and Nick visit the Maclinticks.

In late 1936 Matilda loses her baby. Mrs Foxe gives a party for the first performance of Moreland's new symphony; Moreland has fallen for Priscilla Tolland; the Maclinticks row, and Stringham, now a recovering alcoholic, puts in an unexpected appearance but is removed by Miss Weedon.

In Spring 1937 the death is announced of St John Clarke; Erridge is back from Spain; Maclintick is abandoned by his wife and commits suicide; Priscilla becomes engaged to Chips Lovell.