Monday, 22 August 2011
Cousin Rosamund is the third novel in West's trilogy. Written against failing health, it is perhaps not as polished as the first two but I have to say that I really enjoyed re-reading it.
Rose and Mary are now wealthy and acclaimed concert pianists with an international schedule. Rosamund appalls the Aubrey twins by marrying (apparently) for money. Rose marries the musician Oliver Wood. Kate, now elderly, still works as a housekeeper for the two sisters wearing a long dark dress with a cameo brooch at her neck which delights Mr Morpurgo who thinks she resembles a character from a Bronte novel.
West's inimitable style is both literary and feminine. She describes the rise of the fashion house of Chanel, the perfumes of the day, Patou and Vigny's Golliwog, the flowers and boxes of marrons glace presented to the Aubrey sisters after each concert and sets this against the aftermath of the first world war, the loss of thousands of young men and the ability of musicians to sense impending tragedy through their art.
I wish there were more of Cordelia in this novel. She surfaces with her husband occasionally at parties and manages to irritate both of her sisters but there are none of the spectacular rows of the first two novels or the the comedy arising from Cordelia's inability to play the violin.
Sadly we will never know the reasons for Rosamund's bizarre marriage as West died before the trilogy - or possibly quatrain - was complete although she did leave a synopsis. Perhaps it is best that we are left wanting more of this wonderful story.