Like the roll of flame-coloured silk given to Olivia Curtis on her seventeenth birthday and soon after transformed into a dress for her first dance, Rosamond Lehmann's novel Invitation to the Waltz is high-keyed and intense. It charts a rite of passage. Although confined to only one week, the book ends with Olivia replete with new experience and conscious, as she runs through the garden into the fields, that new life is imminent ('Everything's going to begin'). This ecstatic passage conveys the excitement of a young girl on the threshold of adulthood. It also confirms Lehmann 's reputation for lyrical romanticism, as well as her knack for understanding that complex and often rather insecure organ, the female heart.
Selina Hastings, in this finely tuned biography, unfolds a mouvementé life, which, as Lehmann's friends knew, closely informed her writing. Various parallels can be deduced, including the general one that Lehmann's own experience of betrayal and deception recurs in varying form throughout her work. As happens to many a romantic,