The Valley of Bones

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For other uses, see Valley of Dry Bones.
The Valley of Bones
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 242 pp
Preceded by The Kindly Ones
Followed by The Soldier's Art

The Valley of Bones is the seventh novel in the sequence of twelve comprising Anthony Powell's masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time. Published in 1964, it is the first of the war trilogy, poignantly capturing the atmosphere of the time whilst offering a subversively comic view of Army life.

The conflict between regular soldiers and the bank managers-cum-officers is caught in some of the funniest scenes in the sequence. Personal traits usually concealed in peacetime emerge, as intransigent characters like Odo Stevens find their true milieu in war.

The privations of the home front are seen to have rearranged the social hierarchy as stately homes are requisioned by the armed forces and individuals like Widmerpool, propelled by force of will, take charge. The Valley of Bones offers an unusual literary perspective that spans civilian and military life, deftly deploying the language and humour of both.

Plot summary[edit]

Early in 1940 Jenkins joins his regiment in Wales as a second lieutenant. We are introduced to his commanding officer, the officious Captain Gwatkin, and the alcoholic Lieutenant Bithel.

The battalion is moved to Northern Ireland where Gwatkin disastrously muddles instructions during an exercise and there is a snap inspection by General Liddament.

En route to a training course at Aldershot Nick makes friends with David Pennistone. At Aldershot, Jenkins meets Odo Stevens and also Jimmy Brent who gives an account of his affair with Jean. Stevens gives Nick a lift to spend weekend leave at Frederica Budd's house, where his wife Isobel, Robert Tolland and Priscilla are all staying. Robert Tolland's leave is suddenly cancelled. Meanwhile Stevens has made a hit with Priscilla.

On rejoining his regiment at Castlemallock, Nick finds Gwatkin in unrequited passion for a barmaid, and engaged in a running battle with the preposterous Bithel. Jenkins is instructed to report to the DAAG at Divisional HQ, who turns out to be Widmerpool.