Following the success of Simon and Harriet‘s Muriel Spark Reading Week in April and the anouncement of a Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week to be hosted by Annabel/Gaskella in June, I thought I’d add another log to the fire and hold a Rosamond Lehmann Reading Week this summer.
I first discovered Rosamond Lehmann (1901-1990) six years ago, when I was looking for something new to read and picked up Dusty Answer. Quite unexpectedly – for my reading tastes at the time favoured the Victorian – I was engrossed. I had never thought a twentieth-century writer could be so intensely readable. The discovery re-shaped the entire course of my studies, for my Masters dissertations, and now my P.h.D., have been devoted to Lehmann’s work.
I have naturally been keen to share my enthusiasm. But to my disapppointment, even in academic circles, there are few who have heard her name, let alone read her books. Yet this has not always been the case. Her first novel was a succès de scandale and made her famous practically overnight, and each of her subsequent books was greeted with warm praise both in her native UK and in the States, but also in France, where the first translation of her work appeared as early as 1929.
Identified by her contemporaries as a member of the Bloomsbury Group, Rosamond Lehmann herself felt a bit of an outsider. She certainly wasn’t as obsessed with Cézanne as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, as eager as Virginia Woolf to deconstruct the workings of the Victorian plot, or even as keen on raucous drinking parties as the rest of the set, including her own husband. But her personal life was as unconventional, her work as experimental and innovative, as any of the better-known Bloomsberries.
She is remembered best for her empathetic portrayal of women in love, but to reduce her to that is to overlook the many other wonderful aspects of her writing. She skillfully captures the pain and confusion of growing up in the wake of the Great War, and is an unparalleled chronicler of the changes affecting women’s lives between the wars, dealing with such delicate topics as education, divorce, and illegal abortion. She also paints a vivid portrait of the bohemian and artistic circles she moved in, and when Mayfair meets Bloomsbury, the situation is rife with social comedy. Lehmann’s constant experiments in style and technique make each book different from the last, but each reveals great dramatic power and lyricism, and is a unique and fascinating experience.
Rosamond Lehmann Reading List:
Dusty Answer (1927)
A Note in Music (1930)
Invitation to the Waltz (1932)
The Weather in the Streets (1936)
The Ballad and the Source (1944)
The Gypsy’s Baby and Other Stories (1946)
The Echoing Grove (1953)
The Swan in the Evening: Fragments of an Inner Life (1967)
A Sea-Grape Tree (1976)
Rosamond Lehmann: A Life, by Selina Hastings (2002)
Any and all are welcome to participate in Rosamond Lehmann Reading Week. Those who have a blog and wish to post reviews or discussions, be sure to add your name to the comments box so that I will be able to link back to you when the time comes.
And happy reading to you all!
© Florence Berlioz 2012
She is another author I’ve been meaning to read for years. I have ‘Invitation to the Waltz’ on my shelves, so will start with that I think. Thank you for highlighting her, and for the plug to Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week too.
Invitation to the Waltz is one of her most enjoyable! I’m so glad you will be joining in…
You’re most welcome for BBRW: I read According to Queenie many years ago and hated it, but now I want to try again!
This is so exciting, Florence! I am really looking forward to reading ‘A Note in Music’ and I think it is fascinating that we will have your expert knowledge of her work to guide us. I will help spread the word!
Thank you so much for spreading the word, Anbolyn! I’m really looking forward to sharing RL with you and everyone else!
What a lovely idea. An Invitation to the Waltz is the only one of Rosamund Lehmann’s novels that I I’ve read – I loved it, and so I’m pleased to have the push to read more.
I’ve given you a little plug in the LibraryThing Virago group. I hope you don’t mind, but all of her fiction has been published by Virago over the years and I suspect she has a lot of admirers over there.
Thank you for joining in, Fleur – and for the plug! Of course I don’t mind, I’m absolutely delighted! And I should have remembered that Virago fans would already be familiar with her name… I hope there will be many willing to join the discussion!
Oh what a lovely idea – thanks Jane for tweeting about this – I have read about 4 Rosamond Lehman novels and the biography by Selina Hastings. I must try and get hold of a copy of another RL novel so I can join in.
Many thanks for joining in, Ali! I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Pingback: 10% Report: Reading the 20th Century | Fleur Fisher in her world
I am reading The Echoing Grove and am finding myself rather at odds with it. I feel bored quite a bit of the time and yet am attempting to understand why I am almost finished with it and just began it this A.M. Normally I would have set it aside and picked up something else for a bit. IDK, but obviously there is something sucking me in.
By the way, I am here via Fleur’s plug on L.T. in the Virago Group. A lovely idea and I want to thank you for hosting.
Thank you for commenting! To be perfectly honest, I’m not crazy about The Echoing Grove myself. Lots of people think it’s Lehmann’s masterpiece and I agree that, technically, it’s very good, but that doesn’t make it pleasurable to read. It’s too oppressive, in my opinion… But who knows, maybe you’ll get sucked in so completely that you’ll end up loving it! If you want to give her another try, I really recommend Dusty Answer or The Ballad and the Source…
I have her Dusty Answer so will give that a go this evening. Thank you Miss Darcy.
Lovely – I do hope you enjoy it!
I’ve been away from blogging things for a week – but very excited about this! I’ll post about it on my blog soon – and now have to decide which of her books to read, since I have quite a few… all unread…
Welcome back to the blogosphere, Simon! I hope you’re well rested and over that nasty cold. I’m delighted you’ll be taking part in RLRW and am most intrigued to discover what you will have to say about her…
As I tweeted I had to stop by and say “hello!” ’till we “tweet again”.
Thank you for stopping by – et à bientôt!
I definitely hope to participate! I own three Rosamund Lehmann books, plus a biography I think, and I haven’t read anything by her yet!
Wonderful! I really look forward to reading what you think of her!
I always enjoy Rosamund Lehmann, and have some of her books, so I’ll try and join in if I may – but I’d like to read something I’ve not read before,
You are more than welcome to join in, Christine – the more the merrier!
Pingback: End of Term Reading List | Miss Darcy's Library
Pingback: gudrun's tights » Blog Archive » Have You Heard About RLRW?
I’m happy to have this reading list! At the moment, I’m looking for short stories from Scandinavian countries for our reading group MRU (micro readers united) and came across your post about Karen Blixen. We posted about Babette’s Feast and other films inspired by short stories in May. http://microreadersunited.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/short-stories-that-inspired-great-films/
Pingback: Sunday Salon: Reading Journal | Iris on Books
Pingback: July Reads and Re-reads – The Plan So Far… « Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings
I missed this announcement and I don’t think I have any of RL’s novels here with me in France, sadly. I have read them all, I think, but would have been happy to re-read. Must see if I can find one! Thanks and good luck with it.
Thanks for your support, Harriet! I hope you’ll join in the discussion despite not having the books to hand…
Pingback: Rosamond Lehmann Reading Week « Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings
I’m reading Lehmann in chronological order, so Invitation to the Waltz is my pick for this week.
Pingback: Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann | Iris on Books
Pingback: L’invitation à la valse de Rosamond Lehmann | Cecile's Blog
Pingback: The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann | Iris on Books