Virago Modern Classic # 53
Invitation to the Waltz travels into the life, indeed into the mind, of Olivia Curtis.
The plot is simple.
In the summer of 1920 Olivia receives wonderful presents, most importantly a roll of flame-coloured silk to be made into an evening dress, for her seventeenth birthday. That dress in for her first grown-up dance, in a country house. She feels a mixture of exitement and fear. Her dress is all wrong, her dance card is full of spaces, she doesn’t know how to make small talk, and she is unsure quite how she is expected to behave. But, after several strange encounters, her spirits are lifted by the son of the house, who treats her with sympathy and kindness.
Lovely, but it is the execution that makes this book great.
Olivia’s inner world is wonderfully created and, while some things may have dated, so much of what she feels is still recognisable. Her relationship with her sister, just a little older but so much more at ease, her anxiety at facing a new and unfamiliar situation, the outfit that she thought was perfect but really isn’t quite right, the relief and joy of being rescued from the wrong company, the whole journey from childhood to adulthood … every detail is perfect.
And Olivia’s stream of consciousness unravels in such beautiful, descriptive prose.
I loved and felt every moment!