Monday, 22 August 2011

Cousin Rosamund


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.

12 comments:

Sunday Taylor said...

Nicola, this book sounds wonderful. I am always impressed with how much you read and the great book choices you make. I just reread "Emma" as I needed to read something cozy and it totally took me to a happy place, exactly where I needed to be. But I do want to branch out, in terms of the classics, and this trilogy by Rebecca West sounds perfect!

Anbolyn (Gudrun's Tights) said...

This trilogy just sounds marvelous and I am glad you brought it to my attention.

bookssnob said...

These are the first books I am going to pick up when I get home from New York. A Fountain Overflows is a magnificent masterpiece and I must go back and reread, before following on with the sequels. Mary, Rose and Cordelia have stayed with me for years...they really come alive, don't they?

Chrissy said...

We are so fortunate that Rebecca West left a synopsis.
My copy is an old 1988 Virago (with a painting I wish they hadn't chosen). It includes an Afterword by the brilliant Victoria Glendinning which I find very helpful.
Just imagine a fourth novel, had she been well! No, I never could understand Rosamond's marriage.

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

and I have only just finished The Death of the Heart which you recommended ages ago ... nevermind, I'll catch up one day!

Dorothy W. said...

I didn't realize that there might potentially have been a fourth book. I have only read the first one, but I have the others on hand, and it will be fun to get to them some day.

Penny said...

I must get back to 'The Fountain Overflows'. I had to put it aside as I was SO annoyed by the father! That poor woman, doing her best for her children, and her lazy, irresponsible husband not even getting in touch, so they don't know what's happening... Oh, I could just have slapped him! But I will return... :o)

Vintage Reading said...

Sunday,I think Austen is more rewarding and pleasurable with each re-read. I re-read Emma over Christmas and decided that I'm not too fond of Jane Fairfax! I'm re-reading Mansfield Park yet again!

Anbolyn, hope you get the chance to read the trilogy and I will look out for a review.

Booksnob, yes indeed. I think Cordelia is one of the most remarkable literary creations ever. I strongly suspect that Rose is Rebecca West herself. As always I will be awaiting your review!

Chrissy, yes I have Victoria Glendinning's afterword in my edition, too. Very illuminating and I believe the plan was that Rosaumund dies in Belsen. I would have loved to have read a fourth volume.

Cathy, I'm waaaay behind other book bloggers in terms of reading capacity. I manage a book a fortnight on average!

Dorothy W, yes I think it was intended to be a saga. This Real Night, particularly is a great novel in its own right.

Penny, selling the furniture was a little excessive I thought! He does redeem himself a little later on though ...

Penny said...

That's the bit I gave up at! I'll try again, now that you've reassured me!

Christina said...

I've had this dream of reading West's comprehensive account of the history and culture of Yugoslavia. But the thing is absolutely massive at well over 1,000 pages. I'm glad to see she's written something else that sounds right up my alley. I'd added the first of this trilogy to my TBR list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Nicola.

GretchenJoanna said...

Oh! I am so happy to stumble across your blog at this post - I just finished The Fountain Overflows and went right back to the beginning to read it a second time. I wasn't quite ready to go on to the next books before absorbing more literary nourishment from the company of the Aubreys.

But now I'll be sure to get the others and be ready, thanks to your good review, to proceed.

Very few authors build in me such an interest in the characters, and as you say, a disappointment not to know more. Of course, with real people who have passed on, it's very often the case that when they aren't around anymore, I wish so much that I had learned more about them. This family is that realistically drawn, that they seem to be real friends who have gone from us.

Vintage Reading said...

GretchenJoanna, hi, Rebecca West is indeed a remarkable writer and you are right, the Aubrey family seem like your friends once you have spent some time in their company..