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Invitation To The Waltz (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – 2 Mar 2006
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A novelist in the grand tradition, and, more than this, an innovator, the first writer to filter her stories through a woman's feelings and perceptions (Anita Brookner)
Lehmann has always written brilliantly of women in love, of mothers, of daughters, of suffering (Margaret Drabble)
No English writer has told of the pains of women in love more truly or more movingly than Rosamond Lehmann (Marghanita Laski)
*A classic coming-of-age novel from one of the best-loved writers of the twentieth centurySee all Product description
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Lehmann has come up in my reading group’s season of between-the-wars writers. Why have I never discovered her before? This is wonderful stuff. Gripping, sometimes heartbreaking, often funny.
Lehmann was more-or-less a contemporary of Woolf, and I’m guessing the lovely interior-monologue writing was influenced by Woolf, but Lehmann has qualities that Woolf, to my mind, often lacks: narrative drive, pace, humour, fabulous dialogue, and real empathy for people outside her own class. Beautifully assured writing. I don’t understand why Lehmann isn’t spoken of in the same breath as Woolf, instead of being half-forgotten. I shall immediately get the sequel to this one for my TBR pile: ‘The Weather In The Streets’, judged by her grandson (in the foreword) to be her best.
For great event this is, particularly for Olivia, for whom it is the first dance she goes to. This novel may be set in a different period, but imagine that first school disco, or first party, and it will throw you right back to that age and sense of confused emotions. The worry about what to wear (the scene where Olivia first puts on her, much anticipated, new dress is wonderfully done), the sisters remembrance of boys they had met and whether they will be at the dance, and, if so, whether they will dance with them, the desperate concern to come up with a partner, the worry about being a wallflower, the overflowing emotions, all spill out onto the page…
I have never read Rosamond Lehmann before, and cannot believe it has taken me this long to come into acquaintance with her. As a portrait of young girls, on the cusp of womanhood; uncovering disappointments, sensing their power, understanding how they are viewed by others, this is an excellent read. I look forward to meeting Olivia Curtis again in, “The Weather in the Streets,” in which she appears ten years after we are introduced to her, and to discovering more about Lehmann and her work.
A deceptively simple tale, it was written in 1930 and set in an English country village a decade earlier. It opens on the day of Olivia’s 17th birthday and tells through her eyes what life was like for a girl growing up in a stifling middle-class household where one’s behaviour has to be ‘just so’ and making an appropriate match is considered of the utmost importance.
Olivia is preparing to attend her first party accompanied by her older sister Kate and a drippy escort who’s been hastily rustled up for the occasion. The second half of the book describes the events of the party in excruciating detail; we can picture Olivia’s every tenuous encounter with the opposite sex with the utmost clarity and total empathy. As we leave the two sisters, they are poised to embark on their adult lives. The milieu here might have dated but the sentiments behind this story of transition and self-consciousness haven’t really changed one little bit. Great stuff.