Anthony Powell's eminence must surely be due to the flatness of the surrounding English literary landscape. Is it possible that this entertaining minor novelist has been seriously compared to Proust? This is the eighth volume of Powell's social chronicle, A Dance to the Music of Time, and follows the adventures of its first-person hero, Nicholas Jenkins as he prepares for overseas assignment during the pregnant summer of 1940, a setting and situation already amplified, and with a good deal more pungency, in the preceding escapade, The Valley of the Bones. Nothing much happens to Jenkins, but various other participants of the series undergo transformations: Lady Molly meets her end in a London blitz, Stringham reappears in the bizarre positions of a Mess and Laundry orderly, and the bluff Widmerpool continues his rise up the military ladder. Powell's use of dialogue is as expert as ever, full of wry turns and character-revealing inflections, and that, coupled with a shrewd sensitivity to atmospheric detail, carries along the almost completely anecdotal developments. All events, including Biggs' suicide and the invasion of Russia, are deliberately underplayed, a method certainly suited to what is largely a comedy of manners, though the old Waugh did it infinitely better.