Sometimes I read a book later than I should. Last year, I worked my way through Anthony Powell's epic 12-volume saga A Dance to the Music of Time. It was a lot to absorb. Powell's series spans six decades and introduces hundreds of characters and subplots. It is not uncommon for a character to disappear for several books, only to reappear much later and much older. Keeping everything straight was a challenge.

Hilary Spurling's Invitation to the Dance: A Handbook to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time makes this easier. Spurling's book is a guide to Powell's books. In addition to a summary of each book, she lists details of each character, book, painting, and place mentioned in the series. It is an exhaustive set of lists, as there are many of each. Powell sought to include the influence of art in his story, so he included many artists and works of art - both real and invented.

I enjoyed revisiting some of the stories and characters without the burden of re-reading everything. Some I remembered well, and some had faded from my memory.

There is very little analysis in Spurling's book - it is primarily a database, that can help you navigate the complexities of Powell's story.

I wish I had this book last year, as I was reading Powell's series. If I return to these books, I plan to have Spurling's guide at my side.