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Review: Invitation to the Waltz, by Rosamond Lehmann

Pages: 304

Original date of publication: 1931

My edition:

Why I decided to read: I found this while looking on ebay for Virago Modern Classics

How I acquired my copy: bought secondhand on ebay

Invitation to the Waltz is one of those coming-of-age-stories. Unlike, for example, The Crowded Street, which focuses on a young woman’s entire coming-of-age experience, Invitation to the Waltz focuses on just one moment in seventeen-year-old Olivia Curtis’s life: a coming-out ball, the seminal moment in the life of any girl of the period (approximately the 1920s). Olivia is neither the most beautiful nor the most vivacious girl at the party, and she’s apprehensive about the evening and all it entails. This is not one of those “high action” books, but it gives a lot of insight into the thoughts and feelings of a girl making the leap into adulthood.

I think if I had read this book ten years ago, I would have completely identified with Olivia—she’s shy and retiring, and unsure of herself. Her dress is all wrong, she has no dance partners, and at one point in the evening she ends up with a smear of dust all over her face from leaning against a statue. Olivia experiences a large amount of anxiety over the evening, but there’s a dash of hope there as well. Olivia teenage plight is even rather touching at times, but Lehmann writes with humor as well. Since this novel takes place over the course of a single day and evening, there’s obviously not a lot of character development, but Rosamond Lehmann is skilled at getting into the head of her protagonist.

And yet Lehmann’s style of writing is a bit confusing; I found myself getting lost at several points while reading this novel. There are lots of short, choppy sentences that I had to read several times in order to funny understand. In essence, therefore, this isn’t a particularly easy book to read. Still, I love her descriptions, her characters, and the way that the tone of this novel made me feel: nostalgic. I look forward to reading the follow-up to this book, The Weather in the Streets (a novel about Olivia, ten years on).


I read this back in April and found it sweet but insubstantial. The unexpected narrative switches from first- to third-person were definitely disruptive to the reading experience.
Anonymous said…
Danielle said…
I read this as well and it was challenging but I liked it and am looking forward to reading more of her work. I need to read The Crowded Street, which I also have on hand.

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