I’ve read The Victorian Chaise-Lounge and Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and enjoyed them. So I was particularly excited when Persephone published To Bed With Grand Music. And just like with the other 2, I enjoyed this one as well.
To Bed With Grand Music opens with Deborah and her husband laying in bed together attempting to say good bye before he is shipped off to Egypt during World War II. Promising faithfulness Deborah is shocked and dismayed when he can not promise her the same. He can only promise that he will not love another woman. So off he goes and Deborah remains at home along with her housekeeper and her young son. At the advice of her mother she takes a job in London, though it is not the local job that her mother had in mind. Rooming with an old friend, Deborah is able to experience life in the city-dinner out with male accompaniment, glamourous dresses, stiff drinks, and perfume clouds. She also discovers sex-particularly sex as a substitute for what she has lost because of the war, but also because of what she has found. Deborah becomes a serial dater, entertaining boyfriend after boyfriend and all the while rationalizing her actions away and assuming a double life in both appearance and state of mind. On the weekends she lives in the country with her son and during the week she is a working woman out on the town wielding her new power. It is clear that Deborah has a real talent for cajoling her partners both out of their money and for their sympathy. She is a woman who came to London eating beans from a can and is now carrying a crocodile purse and eating out.
We are not able to see what this does to Deborah because she is able to make her position seem acceptable and even justified. She is surrounded by others who do the same thing. Couples are always paired off in this new society created by war but none of them are married to the person that they are with. There is this understanding that floats about in the book where couples create their own terms and do what pleases them at the moment.
Laski didn’t make me sympathize with Deborah or even make me feel any disdain. I simply enjoyed being along for the ride.
As part of the Persephone Group on GoodReads I generally read a Persephone each month. Next month, however, I will attempt to read that one plus others along with other bloggers in celebration of Persephone Reading Week. Hosted by Claire and Verity, it starts May 3rd and ends May 9th. I enjoyed this celebration last year (click the Persephone Reading Week tag to see what I read) and have brought out my stack of unread Persephones and have ordered the 2 newest releases (hopefully they arrive in time what with all the volcanic ash). I have no idea what I’ll read and have decided to select as I go along. Last year I was able to read 3, this year I think I can do just as well. I did think it would be fun to photograph the contenders, so here they are.