Although The Weather in the Streets is a sequel to Invitation to the Waltz (1932) and as such deals with most of the same characters found in the earlier book, the two books are quite distinct from each other. The earlier of them deals with Olivia Curtis’ coming of age, much as Dusty Answer (1927) deals with Judith Earle’s growing to maturity, and as such is in the tradition of the Bildungsroman. The Weather in the Streets focuses on Olivia ten years after she was presented as the seventeen-year-old in Invitation to the Waltz. Now a young woman of twenty-seven, Olivia has been to Oxford, has married and been separated from Ivor Craig, and has moved to London, where she lives as a paying guest with her cousin Etta Somers. She works for a pittance for a woman who makes her living as a photographer and painter.
The novel is, like most of Lehmann’s novels, divided into specific numbered sections. Part 1 gives the reader glimpses of Olivia’s life in London and provides the occasion for her to meet Rollo Spencer, whom she has not seen for years, on the train as she rushes home to her father’s sickbed. In this section, Lady Spencer invites Olivia to dinner with Rollo and his sister Marigold, an old chum of Olivia.
Part 2 finds Olivia alone on a train trip. She reflects on her affair with Rollo and, through flashbacks, informs the reader of its details. In part 3, Olivia has a confrontation with Rollo’s mother, Lady Spencer, and also discovers that she is pregnant. She has an abortion, which she must arrange and pay for on her own. Part 4 focuses on the unhappy conclusion of Olivia’s affair with Rollo and on the disillusionment she feels over it, a disillusionment quite like that which Judith Earle experiences in Dusty Answer.
The lives of Olivia and Rollo are portrayed in sharp contrast. Olivia is a member of a middle-class family, Rollo a member of the aristocracy. Olivia has to struggle to support herself at a minimal level in London, where she has fallen in with a bohemian group of artists. When her father falls ill, Olivia’s mother calls her daughter Kate, who has married and settled down to rear her children, several days before she calls Olivia.
On the train trip to her father’s sickbed,...
(The entire section is 943 words.)