The Weather in the Streets
The story involves the description of Olivia Curtis, a young woman, and her affair with a married man, Rollo Spencer, who she knows through his sister Marigold and who she meets on a railway journey (after having met him, initially, years before at a ball). Eventually Rollo Spencer's wife, Nicola, gives birth to his child which leads to the culmination of the affair with Olivia.
The heroine of the novel, Olivia, is an older version of the same character who is the central character in Lehmann's novel Invitation to the Waltz. In the earlier work she moves from childhood to young adulthood, while in The Weather in the Streets she is an adult who was married at an earlier stage of her life and is now divorced (in contrast to her sister Kate who is happily married). The novel was controversial in some ways, for example in its depiction of extra-marital affairs on the one hand and of back-street abortions on the other (at a time, prior to the Abortion Act 1967, when abortion was still illegal). Lehmann observed that the character Olivia was quite autobiographical (more so, for example, than Judith Earle in her debut novel, Dusty Answer).
Stylistically, the novel uses techniques and forms that were pioneered by modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, with a fragmented narrative style building up a complex interiority that helps us to explore subjects that were relatively taboo during the 1930s such as female sexuality. Lehmann also employs the device of sharp shifts between first and third person narration which helps to manifest the complex emotional life experienced by Olivia and the way in which it interacts with the wider culture of the period.
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