Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann. (1936).

1901 to 1990. England

Dusty Answers 1927

A Note in Music 1930

Invitation to the Waltz  1932

The Weather in the Streets  1936

The Ballad and the Source 1944

The Gypsey's Baby and other Stories 1946

The Echoing Grove  1953

The Swan in the Evening 1967

A Seagrape Tree 1976

The Weather in the Streets, a sequal to An Invitation to the Waltz, was an instant best seller upon publication.  In Weather in the Streets we met Olivia Curtis, from a comfortable rural English family, in her late teens, and her younger sister Kate.  The book is near to perfection in the manner in which it shows us the girls reaction to going to their first waltz.  The middle chapter devoted to the girls at the waltz is just perfect.  

The Weather in the Streets flashes ahead ten year or so,  Kate is happily married and Olivia is divorced.  When Olivia meets a handsome married man, Rollo Spencer, on a train, a friend of her other sister Marigold, I could not help but see an echo of Anna Karenina.

Olivia is in attendance at a social event along with Rollo and his wife.  Rollo ever so kindly offers to give Olivia a ride home.  Olivia has been lonely since her divorce and feels an attraction for Rollo she knows is wrong.  She allows Rollo to kiss her and from this an affair ensues.  Lehmann does a brilliant job showing the building love of Olivia, her obsession with him and her guilt and frustration when they must keep their affair secret.   They must normally have their nights together in hotels, Olivia lives with an older dear relative, and Olivia hates checking in under false names and is chagrined by Rollo's constant fear they will be seen by someone he knows.   When it is revealed that Olivia is convinced that  Rollo, "of course, no longer sleeps with his wife" it was almost chilling.  I think anyone who has ever had an affair like this will marvel at the wisdom and verisimilitude of Lehmann.

The novel was very shocking for the time.  It contains what I think maybe the first description of a visit to an abortionist in English fiction.  abortions were not legal then, which was near chilling.  

Lehmann is a master of understated dialogue.  The characters are all very well realized.  Olivia's negotiation of the cost of the abortion is perfectly done, no one really talks about what is being priced.

I recently reread a classic work of literary theory, The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne Booth in which he talks about the various methods and devices authors use to shape stories into works of art and this helped me see the powerful art of Lehmann.  In The Weather in the Streets Lehmann sometimes uses first person narration by Olivia and some times in the third person.  I found this really brilliant as the third party aspects illuminated the thoughts of Olivia. The narrative methods of Lehmann are very sophisticated.  The dialogue is flawless and there is a very high intelligence at work here. 

I plan to read and post on all of the fiction of Lehmann.  I also strongly endorse Selina Hasting's biography of Lehmann.  

This novel along with other works by Lehmann are being  published by Open Road Media.  The next time you are looking for something to read, especially if you prefer E reading as I do, take a look at their very well done webpage.  They have on offer books by over 2000 authors, all very well described and fairly priced.

Mel u


Mystica said...

Thank you for the list of books as well as the name of the publishing house. Makes it easier for me to track down books.

joanne fox said...

I adored The Weather in the Streets, and have read it two or three times. There was also a film version, with Michael York I think - but nothing can ever live up to the book.

Mel u said...

Mystica, as always thanks for your comment and visit

Mel u said...

Joanne Fox. This is a very powerful work, I agree. To me my favorite Lehmanm so far is chapter Two of Invitation to the Waltz. Thanks for your comment and visit