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on 21 March 2017
In rural England in 1920, two teenage sisters – one pretty and confident, the other painfully self-conscious – anticipate and experience the coming-out dance of an aristocratic neighbour.
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.
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on 8 October 2013
The subject matter could sound boring, but Rosamond Lehmann catches the times, sensitivities, and feelings of girls on the brink of womanhood that you are carried along with great interest. It is a little gem of a book
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Set ten year's before Lehmann's The Weather In The Streets, this is a gorgeously sensitive and delicate book which depicts Olivia on the shivering brink of womanhood - and shows us her first meeting with the older, sophisticated and charming Rollo.

Lehmann's prose is, as ever, incandescent and luminous, sensual and yet precise, and she dissects the flow of emotion between men and women like a surgeon. This is a different Olivia for the woman we meet in the later book: fragile, idealistic, tentative, romantic, and the two together make up a moving portrait of a female psyche in the first half of the twentieth century.

Lehmann, for me, is one of the supreme female stylists with an acute and clear-sighted vision of what love does to us. If you like this, I would highly recommend her Dusty Answer and Antonia White's Frost in May quartet.
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on 13 August 2011
This deceptively light, witty, sparkling book introduces us to the characters who are going to appear in the later much, much, stronger 'The Weather in the Streets.'

The action starts in our heroine, Olivia's comfortable middle class home and was written in 1932. The 'middle classness' is important because Lehmann's heroines reflect her own perpetual insecurities around class, of being in awe of 'the uppers' and feeling an outcast.

Lehmann draws heavily on her own family for the characters of her mother, her sister and little brother James... based on her brother, John. The exchanges with this child make for delightful reading as do the waspish comments of Olivia's mother.

Olivia is mad with excitement at going to the ball held by the posh neighbours, the Spencers and has a dress made specially. Unfortunately, this turns out to be something of a disaster, not quite right at the waist and very second class compared to that of the daughter of the Spencer family. A very large part of this book is simply taken up with one evening, that of the dance, and Olivia's exuberance, despite her, shyness, fear, horror and being stuck with duff suitors, is beautifully and engagingly described.

The real importance though is near the end of the book when Olivia has a chance to be alone with the glamorous son of the house, Rollo. Already Olivia is a little in love with him, with his style, his glamour, his insouciance, though in reality he is a bit of a bounder and in the background, ready to snatch him away, is the beautiful, enigmatic Nicola.

The book ends, the stage is set, four years later we Olivia and Rollo again in the splendid, heartbreaking, shocking 'The Weather in The Streets.' If you enjoy this novel I suggest you run out and get 'The Weather..' right now.
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on 14 August 2011
A beautifully-written and very insightful story of a young girl on the verge of knowing who she is, "Invitation to the Waltz" is like a coming-of-age novel in microcosm. The setting and heroine recall the worlds of The Constant Nymph and I Capture the Castle (although rather less bohemian) to some extent, with a few Mitford characters thrown in at the ball.

Although written eighty years ago, the overall feeling of the novel is fresh and upbeat and still very relevant for today. The cast of characters at the ball, from the old lech, to the drunk, to the "me-against-the-world" angst-ridden poet to the young man cruelly maimed through war are figures that everyone will recognise. In Olivia, the author has created a delightful and sympathetic heroine with whom you can't fail to identify.

The writing is a joy to read, flitting as it does through thoughts, events, descriptions. The rather blowsy, disreputable army wife is described as having "so much sherry-coloured hair" - just brilliant!

I'll definitely be reading The Weather in the Streets now, as other reviewers have suggested.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2012
Wonderful stream of consciousness novel opening on Olivia's 17th birthday in 1920 in a shabby, genteel home.
As she experiences the sheer joy of being alive, her birthday gifts, the beauty of nature and the excitement at her forthcoming first dance, she must also confront the bad things in life: contemplating that her elderly father will not always be with her; an awareness of the sad spinsterish life of her dressmaker; the fact that Uncle Oswald has somehow failed in life. And even at the dance: meeting a guest blinded in the War; encountering rudeness and awkwardness.
Totally re-creates the emotions of a teenager starting out in life.
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on 27 July 2006
I first read this book nearly ten years ago, when I was not much younger than Olivia and just as naive! Olivia is a wonderful character, rather sensitive and not quite sure of her place in the world, wishing for that magical transformation that will turn her into someone graceful and beautiful, like her older sister Kate. However, despite her awkward ways and the disappointing escort, Olivia's 'waltz' turns out to be very interesting indeed. Lehmann's stream-of-consciousness is first rate and leaves you wanting more.
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I first read this book when I was seventeen, the same age as Olivia. The experience of reading this was so strong that I could afterwards remember every episode in my head as if it had really happened.

Although Rosamond Lehmann's style is laden with adjectives, three or four at a time sometimes, this technique really works in Invitation to the Waltz, and the impressionistic style is so powerful, that it's hypnotic and deeply memorable.

Reading it again at 24, I can see how naive Olivia is: it's not that surprising she gets into the mess she does in The Weather in The Streets: she's extremely gullible!

But still I love living every moment of the book through her: the cringiness of feeling obliged to buy pieces of lace from the manipulative salesgirl, being sickened by lecherous old men, being starstruck by the knowable but untouchable Spencers - for Olivia, used to a comfortable middle-class schoolroom bound environment - this is her chance to experience life, glamour and excitement. It's our chance too, to be taken away into the world of the novel, to be swept by the heady sense of expectation, and forced to witness and take a part in the little emotional dramas that make this novel so sensitive and finely tuned.
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on 30 June 2013
The hardback edition of this novel is beautiful, with a matt texture and colourfully printed covers. The pages are thick and it feels special to read. The novel itself has quickly become my favourite, as the prose is so, so evocative and prettily detailed - without weighing down the story! Absolutely loved it!
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on 22 April 2011
Anyone who has ever been a 17 year old girl will relate to this charming tale. Given that it was written in the 1920's I was surprised by how amusing the book is in places. It is probably best read in one sitting which unfortunately I didn't get the chance to do. Save this book for when you have a few hours to yourself to savour it undisturbed. Do be aware that if you want a fast paced plot this is probably not the book for you.
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