“As she stepped away from me
And she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her
Move here and move there
And then she turned homeward
With one star awake
Like the swan in the evening
Moves over the lake”
From She Moved Through The Fair
by Padraic Colum
Beutiful words, but they, and in particular the image of the lone swan, are weighed down by sadness. And that fits this work by Rosamond Lehmann exatly.
Its subtitle, Fragments of an Inner Life, is fitting too. The facts of Rosamond Lehmann’s life and career are missing from this, her only autobiographical work, but the emotional events that shaped her are at its heart.
The first memories are of childhood and they are so vividly told. But the sense of loss is there from the very start. A teacher who leaves to marry and is seen years later in a restuarant, a shadow of her former self. A longed for perfume bottle that is wonderously received as a consolation prize, but loses its lustre when Rosamond is told that she doesn’t deserve it.
Wonderful tales, beautifully recalled and related, but an underlying sadness is always there.
The story then moves forward to tell the story of Rosamond’s beloved daughter Sally, and of the tragedy of her death at the age of just twenty-four. The love that pervades the story of Sally’s life and death is so, so moving.
And what mother can accept the loss of her child? Although she is a non-believer Rosamond enters the world of spiritualism. Her words are honest and emotional as she strives for understanding of what has happened.
Then finally there is a letter from the author to her grandchild. If not peace then at least acceptance.
I have written little about the latter chapters of this book. It would be wrong to pick out bits, you need to either make the decision to read the whole or not read at all. The writing is deeply personal, and all I could do was feel and be deeply moved.
An extraordinary piece of writing.