“People have been saying the novel is dead for as far back as I can remember. The novel will never die, but it will keep changing and evolving and taking different shapes. Storytelling, which is the basis of the novel, has always existed and always will.”
In a fit of Rosamond Lehmann enthusiasm I searched my shelves on Sunday night and found my copy of The Weather in the Streets. The Weather in the Streets is a continuation of the story began in Invitation to the Waltz and I’ve long wanted to read it, but have been afraid that it would be disappointing. Rosamond Lehmann fever has convinced me now to jump in with both feet and find out what happens to Olivia Curtis, the main character in both novels.
I reviewed Invitation to the Waltz on an old blog that is now deleted, but remembered that I archived a copy on a group project I started last year (which I think I will try to revive as a challenge in 2013 so stay tuned). You can read my thoughts here.
I’ve enjoyed reading Rosamond Lehmann’s Paris Review interview, from 1985, which you can find here. She had such an interesting life and her thoughts on writing and the women’s movement are particularly intriguing.
Thanks to Florence for reviving interest in Lehmann and her novels! It is so wonderful to see people reading an author who doesn’t get much attention these days.
P.S. Thanks for reading – You’re the best!
I’ve started a tumblr page where I can post some of my photographs. Go here to visit. I warn you: I take a lot of pictures of clouds 🙂
I bought A Note in Music last year after reading Invitation to the Waltz , which I was instantly smitten with. I loved Lehmann’s unique writing style and knew that I wanted to explore more of her writing. Thanks to Florence and Rosamond Lehmann Reading Week I’ve been given the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Norah and Grace are quietly unhappy friends in 1930’s North England. When Hugh Miller, a young, vibrant, energetic man enters their lives he becomes a symbol of everything they feel is just out of reach in their own desperate homes. He epitomizes the freedom, spontaneity , beauty and energy that their own lackluster lives are in need of. They both fixate on him and build fantasies around their vision of who he is and what he represents. It’s true that Hugh and his sister Clare, with their youth and beauty, invigorate everyone whom they come in contact with, however Hugh is not all that the women imagine he is. Unsettled and with heartbreak in his past, Hugh has mastered the act of seeming joyful and untroubled while in his quiet moments he doubts himself and even contemplates suicide. But Norah and Grace never know him as a real person – he is only a representation of all that they want in the world and don’t have and his very presence causes them, especially Grace, to lose hope in the reality of day-to-day existence. When Hugh leaves town will his brief, shining spirit change them for the better or leave them bitter?
A Note in Music is a very melancholy novel, one that doesn’t offer many light or rosy moments for its readers. I found it easy to sympathize with the characters at first, for haven’t most of us felt trapped in the rut of commonplace life? I felt the excitement that Grace feels when Hugh is around, the romantic and positive mood that he ushers in to every situation and her despondency when she isn’t near him. But it began to wear – I wanted Grace to create delight in her own life instead of relying on an unsuspecting young man to generate it for her. And I wanted her to see the blessings that were all around her and to appreciate her good fortune. Her only solace comes from nature and Lehmann perfectly describes the trees, flowers and plants that give Grace comfort.
As I read I was struck by the similarities between Lehmann and the writing of D.H. Lawrence. They both philosophize quite a bit and use veiled, elaborate sentences to convey their message which doesn’t come through (to me anyway) very easily. They also both excel at creating characters who frustrate and bewilder and at striving for understanding that seems just beyond the reach of the characters and the reader.
Though I didn’t like this novel as much as I liked Invitation to the Waltz I am happy I read it. Lehmann is a wonderful writer and has a genius for channeling the subtleties of human emotions and relationships that is staunchly believable.
Did you read a Rosamond Lehmann novel for RLRW?
Go here for inspiration that helps me not to be like Grace.
What are you doing in July? Can you make time to read a truly wonderful author, an author who once said “some contemporary novels are apt to be dull, because the concept of guilt about moral lapses doesn’t exist any more. How can you write an interesting novel when there are no secrets, and nothing is sacred?” That sounds like my kind of author – does it sound like your kind of author?
If so, please join Florence at Miss Darcy’s Library for Rosamond Lehmann Reading Week taking place this 23 – 29 of July. Last year, I read Invitation to the Waltz and loved its peek into the life of a curious, adolescent girl growing up just after World War I. This year I plan to read A Note in Music.
For more information about the author and a list of her novels see Florence’s introductory post here. I hope you can participate!