Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Rosamund Lehmann catch-up part two: VMC 94, 95, 467

It's time for the rest of the Lehmann novels. I should also take the chance to highlight two other related books. Firstly, it is worth reading The swan in the evening which is Lehmann's autobiographical fragments. And secondly, the biography by Selina Hastings entitled just Rosamund Lehmann was written in 2002 and gives a good account of her life and writing.

An echoing grove (VMC 468)
I think this was perhaps the Lehmann novel which I found most gripping. We see two sisters, Madeleine and Dinah. Madeleine has been married to Rickie for many years. For many years Dinah has been having a secret affair with Rickie. Rickie then dies. The novel is partly a series of flashbacks, taking us back through the marriage and affair, and is deeply painful. It has been suggested that the novel grew out of Lehmann's affair with C Day-Lewis who refused to leave his wife for her, and I think that this is likely as being able to write about such pain can surely only come from direct experience. This is absolutely one to read.
I only managed to find a picture of the most recent cover for The echoing grove, although I am sure that there are earlier editions. Again, can anyone help?
The ballad and the source (VMC 94)
This is the tale of ten-year-old Rebecca and the friendship that she develops with Mrs Jardine, an elderly woman who has just returned to her property in the neighbourhood. Probably one of Lehmann's most gripping novels, we become entangled in family history and the story of the life of Mrs Jardine.

Two cover pictures here, the book doesn't seem to have been recently republished by Virago yet.
A sea-grape tree (VMC 95)
And this novel, we meet Rebecca, from The echoing grove once more. Like many of her other novels, A sea-grape tree reflects Lehmann's personal circumstances; in later life she became a spiritualist, and we see elements of this in this book. Rebecca has come to a small Carribean island after an unsuccessful love-affair and finds out that her old friend Mrs Jardine once lived their too. As she spends time on the island, spending time with other British expatriates she comes under influence from Mrs Jardine's spirit. I found that this book lacked plot, and wasn't hugely gripping, but I did enjoy the descriptions of the characters and the settings.
Three covers here...


  1. I have A Sea-Grape Tree (top) but not The Ballad and the Source yet, which is silly.

    The Echoing Grove was one of the Viragoes that I restrained myself from buying in the half-price shop today. I can't justify buying anything at the moment that isn't Booker longlisted or Persephone excluding the Pyms and Muriel Spark VMCs that I have preordered!

  2. I LOVE The Echoing Grove - it was my first Rosamond Lehmann and I was a bit breathless after reading it. I thought it was magnificent. The Ballad and the Source, which I read next, I also thought was brilliant and powerful. I didn't realise The Sea Grape Tree was its day I will have to track it down.

    Have you seen the film of The Echoing Grove? It was filmed as 'The Heart of Me' for some strange reason and stars Helena Bonham Carter as Dinah, the very dishy Paul Bettany as Rickie and the woman who plays Jane Fairfax in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma as Madeleine. It's a brilliant film, very well done.

    I want to read The Swan in the Evening now. How sad about her daughter.

  3. Claire - I am very envious of your opportunity to buy VMCs half price and impressed by your restraint.

    Rachel - thanks for the info about the film - it was only £3.99 on so I have just bought a copy. My next post, bizarrely, about Nell Dunn, asks about VMC adaptions - I'm going to start compiling a list and including them in the blog!