"Invitation to the Waltz is a novel almost without flaw: delicate in structure, beautifully written, minutely observed, moving and frequently very funny. Undoubtedly Rosamond’s best work, it is on this and on its distressing sequel, The Weather in the Streets, that her reputation must ultimately rest." - Selina Hastings
I totally agree with Selina Hastings, whose suberb biography of Rosamond Lehmann I will soon post upon, invitation to the Waltz is a near flawless work of art. I would add that it is also incredibly funny at times and a great look into the outlook of late adolescent girls. In one segment I will talk a bit about, I actually gasped for joy at her wonderfully wicked comedic treatment of the guests at the waltz in a small English town.
Rosamond Lehmann 1901 to 1990
The novel is set in small town England and is divided into three sections. The opening segment is about the excitement generated when a teenage girl receives an invitation to a waltz, her first. Lehmann does a wonderful job creating the feeling of excitement this generates in the family. We are there for all the preparations. The central and by far the longest section is devoted to the waltz. It is a recurring event open to people of all ages. Of course the girls in the story are excited over which boys will be there. Once there the big worry is who to dance and chat with. I admit I was a bit shocked to see that at the dance was an old lecher who used the opportunity to dance with young girls and pull them into him, the girls were of course disgusted by him. Around people their parents age he is the epitome of an English country gentleman.
There was one conversation that was just to brilliant for words. One of the waltz guests is down from Oxford, just a bit older than the girls. He is a poet, convinced he and his peer group are great writers, too brilliant for anyone at the waltz to follow. Lehmann does just an almost too perfect rendition of the pretentiousness of the young poet and the girl's reaction to him. Just this section made the book a wonderful experience for me.
The last segment is after the waltz. The girls have met people of a higher social standing, realized older men may not be as gentile as their patents think they are and of course they have their crushes on the handsome young men at the waltz,
I really liked this book. The prose is just so elegant. I hope to reread it, perhaps next year.
I have begun her first novel Dusty Answers.
Lehmann had a fascinating life, deeply involved with many illustrious and not so much people, especially in Bloomsbury.