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Mikeharvey

Rosamund Lehmann (1901-1990)

Rosamund Lehmann's INVITATION TO THE WALTZ (1932) is something of a tour-de-force.  It's focussed upon one character, Olivia, a girl from an upper-middle class family, whom we first meet on the morning of her 17th birthday.  Olivia is eagerly awaiting her first dance at the Big House, and the first part of the novel deals in great and fascinating detail with the days leading up to that immense event. The second half of the book takes place almost entirely at the dance.  RL writes about all this exquisitely, we live in Olivia's mind as she deals with her family, her sister, has a dress made, and reflects on her life to come, and what she hopes to get from it.  Her major preoccupation is young men.  She knows hardly any. Who will ask her to dance? Will anybody? In those days you had to be invited. Her mind is a whirl of speculation and anxiety.  The chapters at the ball are beautifully handled as Olivia dances, or doesn't dance, with many different sorts of partners and wonders 'Is this the one?' The ending is delightful. I very much enjoyed this book, Rosamund Lehmann's prose is a continual pleasure to read, and there's much delicious humour. I shall certainly read more. This extract is about who on earth can escort the sisters to the dance.

'The list of local young men was small, unfruitful, soon exhausted. It was then, when hope was paling, that Olivia's mother made the decision: young men should be invited to stay. But in vain the nest was cast abroad. Cousins, one naval, one military, and one on the stage (but only occasionally, very discreetly and obscurely so) all sent polite regrets. Kate wept in the night. Olivia felt worried several times, Mrs Curtis began to let fall philosophical reflections of a general and stoical character. Then Reggie Kershaw, son of an old school friend and one of a secondary or passive group of godchildren, lost sight of since the christening mug, had been remembered, recalled from inactivity, staked in a last desperate gamble. And they had won.  Mysteriously, out of the void, they had fished up an authentic young man.'








           
Chibiabos83

The sequel, The Weather in the Streets, is a very different kind of book, more sober in tone, but perhaps even more impressive. It's years since I read any Lehmann, I must rectify that soon.
MikeAlx

What Gareth said! I love both these books, though the second is much darker. I prefer them to the better-known "The Echoing Grove". I think I wrote about them on here, or perhaps an earlier incarnation of the board, a long time ago.

PS, sorry to be a pedant, but it's RosamOnd Lehmann.
Castorboy

Mike, you did write a review on the BBC Board which is still available.
MikeAlx

Thanks Castorboy - didn't even know the old boards were still published!

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