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Rosamond Lehmann: A Life Hardcover – 6 Jun 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; Reprint edition (6 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701165421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701165420
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 352,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"I can think of few biographies that are as unputdownable as a novel, but Selina Hastings has produced one: fluidly written, witty, detached yet utterly gripping-deeply touching: a triumph of the biographer's art" (Spectator)

"So intelligently written that you linger over the phrasing, her account blends wit, mischief, gossip, acuity and admiration-shrewd, relaxed, understanding, stylish and not to be missed" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

A triumph of the biographer's art, this lively, perceptive and beautifully handled life, by the acclaimed author of Evelyn Waugh, is based on interviews and a large collection of personal letters belonging to Rosamond Lehmann, never seen before or published.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Rosamond Lehmann turned out (until her last novel, at least), beautiful, clear prose, elegant dissections of upper and upper-middle-class life. This won her acclaim abroad as well as in England (she was particularly popular in France, where Simone de Beauvoir was a big fan). But her private life was increasingly chaotic. At Cambridge, where both she and her sister Helen were students (quite remarkable in itself, bearing in mind the general attitude to women's education in the early 20th century), she fell for a charming Etonian, who played her along for a bit before marrying someone else. This distraction stopped her getting the First she had been predicted. On the rebound, she married Leslie Runciman, member of a prosperous family who worked in shipping, and went to live with him in the North of England. Though Leslie was devoted to her, they had little in common, and he had various neuroses including a horror of becoming a father (he forced Rosamond to abort their child). Rosamond wrote her first two novels during this marriage, and began to receive acclaim, to Leslie's pride. However, their married life did not improve, and after a few years Rosamond ran away with a mutual friend, Wogan Phillips. Wogan had artistic aspirations (he was a painter, apparently not very good!) and for a while the pair were very happy. They had two children, to whom Rosamond was devoted. But after a few years the marriage began to turn sour. Both had affairs, Rosamond with Goronwy Rees, a journalist and academic who she met via Elizabeth Bowen - Bowen accused Rosamond of pinching her potential lover. Things worsened when Wogan went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War and returned a committed Communist, despite his aristocratic background. His father disowned him, and he and Rosamond decided to separate.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book knowing nothing about Rosamond Lehmann, but knowing the most essential thing about her biographer - that she writes wonderfully.

I now know that Rosamond Lehmann was born the day after Queen Victoria's funeral; that she was a novelist; that her love-life was eventful and a bit of a mess; and that she had endearing qualities which made up for a rather alarming egotism. She was also very beautiful. For much of her life she was under the influence of the atheist/agnostic culture of the Bloomsbury Group, but later became deeply involved in spiritualism.

It would be nice if publishers could be a bit more generous with photographs. The ones included are fascinating - in particular Rosamond on a motorbike sandwiched between one of her husbands and his gay best friend - but one would like to be able to put a face to every significant character.

I am unlikely to rush out and buy the collected works. I finished this book with only the mildest inclination to read any of Rosamond's purple prose, but with my veneration for her biographer absolutely intact.
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Format: Paperback
From the first time I read Rosamond Lehmann's earliest novel `Dusty Answer', decades ago now, I have loved her writing and couldn't resist buying this biography, even though I've never been a great fan of the genre. Then I kept it for several years before I got round to reading it, but when I did, I found it fascinating and just had to keep reading.

I hadn't realised that Miss Lehmann died as recently (relatively speaking) as 1990 or that she lived until she was 90. Nor did I realise, until I read the Afterword, that her biographer, Selina Hastings, knew her as a friend. This goes some way to explaining the depth of detail about Rosamond Lehmann's feelings, which is what makes this biography so special. Even if you don't like her at times, she seems like someone you know quite well.

It's long and closely printed but an easy read - an engaging insight into a life led to the full, with all its joys, disappointments, and grief. From her early childhood with her sisters and brother John, with whom she maintained a close though sometimes stormy relationship throughout her life, through her days at Cambridge, to the loneliness of her last years, the book describes the ups and downs of her marriages, her affairs, and her friendships. Always demanding and possessive, she eventually stifled the love of many she held most dear but she nevertheless maintained close friendships with numerous well-known personalities. At times it seemed as if she was an inveterate name-dropper, but she knew many of those mentioned well enough to spend evenings and weekends with them or they with her and was often influenced by their beliefs and disbeliefs.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book. I am a Cecil Day Lewis fan and that is why I initially wanted to read this. I learned so much about this lady. She is someone I wish I had meet. Such a whirlwind of a life!
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