Just read, Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann

I picked Dusty Answer up last summer in a great little antiquarian bookshop in Keswick, never having read any Rosamond Lehmann’s books but remembering her name from The Guardian’s 1000 novels list. While this book is not on the actual list (but three of her other novels are), I rather enjoyed reading it and getting lost in it. There is a great sense of dreaminess as the main character, Judith Earle comes of age and her relationships with those around her change. You are never told what Judith looks like, she is described through the reactions those around her have to her. Her own imagined conversations and situations are intertwined with real life and there is almost a sense of otherworldliness. IMG_0510The book was published in 1927 and could be considered quite feminist in that context, there are characters of ambiguous sexuality, quite obvious but only hinted at, like on the cover, which I thought was pretty perfect. It is a good read, I read half of it in one sitting yesterday afternoon, the deliberately slow tempo and Judith’s dream world draw you in so that the instances when she has important conversations stand out in a complete contrast. Perhaps not as fun as Nancy Mitford’s books or E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady but more subtle and rather good.

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Antiquarian bookshop finds

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I keep going on about the large stack of books waiting to be read and then what do I do? Buy more books… Think I can be excused this time, these came from a lovely antiquarian bookshop in Keswick, mentioned in my last post. Why these books in particular? When I have time to read fiction, I try to catch up with some new and good-sounding new releases and I am also working my way, very slowly, through Guardian’s list of 1000 novels everyone should read. I know there are lots and lots of ‘must read’ and ‘100 best’ type lists around, I just found The Guardian’s pretty comprehensive – all those classics you never get around to conveniently placed on one list as well as many 20th century authors that people of my generation or younger may not be aware of any more, Barbara Pym being a good example. I also add comments and other recommendations to the list, India Knight came up with a very good list of comfort reads a couple of years back and the Rosamond Lehman was one of her recommendations, looking forward to reading it. Am currently reading Howard’s End and very much enjoying it. Have read A Passage to India before and I love how Forster’s writing seems measured, perhaps that’s not the right word, proper, maybe with all these tensions and insecurities bubbling up underneath. Wonderfully realised characters, boxed in by their own and the society’s expectations and codes of behaviour according to class, is your money new or old – can they ever mingle and ‘how to help the poor’, being a favourite topic of the ladies debate club the sisters in Howard’s End belong to. Wouldn’t it just be fabulous if you had the time to read great books all day long…