Third in West's 'Cousin Rosamund' series, for me this novel didn't quite reach the heights of the previous two. It was published posthumously and is unfinished. Nonetheless it takes us to a satisfactory closing point in the life of narrator Rose.
With the absence of the pivotal characters of the previous two works, the book echoes the emptiness of Rose's life. She and Mary are now world renowned concert pianists, attending parties, mixing with millionaires and bright young things, yet their magical childhood seems to hold them back from making any new friends:
'I hate all people except Mary who is more or less me, and the people here...I am so lonely! I am only happy here.'
It is in the world of the 'Dog and Duck' public house with Uncle Len and family that Rose finds calm. The beautiful writing brings these scenes vividly to life:
'The grass was furred with moonlight and on it each object drew a picture of itself in soft and sooty shadow, but the ground was hard as steel under our feet, and the air was minerally hard with intense cold.'
West retains her occasional flashes of humour such as in Nancy's earnest young husband Oswald, a scientist:
' "All that", she said, "just for asking how the world began".
"For mercy's sake, Lil", exclaimed Uncle Len, "Is that what started him off? You ought to have a better headpiece on you. That's not a question that would bring a short answer out of Os."..."Has he finished?"
"No Milly took over listening when I left."
You definitely have to read this if you've read the two prequels. The afterword in this novel gives an outline of West's planned 'plotline' for a fourth in the series which was sadly never undertaken.