The Weather in the Streets Summary
by Rosamond Lehmann

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The Weather in the Streets Summary

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

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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, Olivia quite unexpectedly meets Rollo. She has not seen him in years, and he is now married to Nicola, a woman of his own social standing. Rollo offers Olivia a ride in his car to her parents’ house. He later telephones to inquire about her father’s health, at which time Lady Spencer gets on the telephone to invite Olivia to dinner.

Throughout this part of the narrative, Olivia is much impressed by the Spencers’ wealth and social standing. Her own genteel poverty of the moment intensifies the contrast between her life and Rollo’s and she romanticizes his life, although she soon learns that the Spencers are quite desperate for money and manage to maintain their standard of living only by selling off parts of their art collection.

Part 2, unlike the other sections of the book, is told in the first person rather than third person, and the tense, save for the last few pages, is past rather than present. This portion of the book is reflective. While the narrative of the whole story runs from the November of one year to the November of the next, part 2 covers the eight months of Olivia’s involvement with Rollo, from December until August. During this time, their relationship goes from the idyllic lark that it is during their time together in Salzburg to a routine, somewhat dull relationship.

In the early stages of the relationship, there are the deliciously dangerous moments when Olivia and Rollo almost run into someone they know while they are having a weekend at Dorset or when Rollo’s sister...

(The entire section is 980 words.)