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A Note in Music

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Grace Fairfax lives with her dull, conventional husband Tom in a grey manufacturing town in the north of England. At thirty-four she finds that her external life of dreary routine fails to match up to her lush, wistful and dreamy internal life. Norah, her energetic and chaotic friend, is equally settled in her own marriage to an irritable university professor. Then Hugh Mil Grace Fairfax lives with her dull, conventional husband Tom in a grey manufacturing town in the north of England. At thirty-four she finds that her external life of dreary routine fails to match up to her lush, wistful and dreamy internal life. Norah, her energetic and chaotic friend, is equally settled in her own marriage to an irritable university professor. Then Hugh Miller and his sister Claire descend upon the quiet town. On all four, the hypnotic charm of these two visitors exerts an enchanting spell. And after their departure, life - having been violently disrupted - will never be quite the same again . . .


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Grace Fairfax lives with her dull, conventional husband Tom in a grey manufacturing town in the north of England. At thirty-four she finds that her external life of dreary routine fails to match up to her lush, wistful and dreamy internal life. Norah, her energetic and chaotic friend, is equally settled in her own marriage to an irritable university professor. Then Hugh Mil Grace Fairfax lives with her dull, conventional husband Tom in a grey manufacturing town in the north of England. At thirty-four she finds that her external life of dreary routine fails to match up to her lush, wistful and dreamy internal life. Norah, her energetic and chaotic friend, is equally settled in her own marriage to an irritable university professor. Then Hugh Miller and his sister Claire descend upon the quiet town. On all four, the hypnotic charm of these two visitors exerts an enchanting spell. And after their departure, life - having been violently disrupted - will never be quite the same again . . .

30 review for A Note in Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary Durrant

    A seductive stranger becomes the symbol of everything two married women secretly long for. Beautifully written, lyrical and descriptive. The pains of women in love told with feeling. A moving portrait of marriage-and the truths that remain unspoken. I loved it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    A Note in Music was Rosamond Lehmann’s second novel. Her first novel Dusty Answer published three years earlier was an enormous success, and A Note in Music is a worthy successor to that extraordinary debut. This is a gloriously nuanced novel, a portrait of marriage and the disappointments of an ordinary middle-class life. Grace Fairfax is thirty-four, childless following a still-birth some years earlier, she is married to the dull, hard-working, conventional Tom. Living in a dull northern town, h A Note in Music was Rosamond Lehmann’s second novel. Her first novel Dusty Answer published three years earlier was an enormous success, and A Note in Music is a worthy successor to that extraordinary debut. This is a gloriously nuanced novel, a portrait of marriage and the disappointments of an ordinary middle-class life. Grace Fairfax is thirty-four, childless following a still-birth some years earlier, she is married to the dull, hard-working, conventional Tom. Living in a dull northern town, her life is one of unvaried routine. However, Grace has a glorious inner life, a woman of imagination, in tune with the countryside she loves so much, she knows herself capable of great love, and still misses the southern country of her youth. A year earlier, a fortune teller had told Grace that her life lacked purpose, Grace wasn’t surprised. “The country haunted her still, she said to herself: not a day passed without bringing some picture remembered or imagined. Dawn and sunset were not in these skies, behind the slate roofs and red brick chimneys of the residential quarter – but in her mind’s eye, over country spaces; and spring and autumn still made her sick for home. How many times had she not thought of the summer evening when a bird had sung in the poor lilac tree in the front patch?… But that would never happen again, now that the trams came to the end of the avenue.” Norah MacKay is Grace’s best friend, she too a woman living a somewhat disappointed life. Married to bad tempered university professor; Gerald, mother to two boys, Norah once knew great passion with Jimmy – lost in the war. “It was such a great love, she whispered to herself: how could it be (for the thousandth time) that it had not availed to save him? That was his fault…so like him…just as everything was coming right at last. In spite of her, he would not, could not care to save himself. To her passionate feminine instinct for life he had opposed his masculine indifference; and somehow, in the general destruction of mankind by man, he had disappeared with a smile and a shrug, and defeated her.” When brother and sister Clare and Hugh Miller arrive, temporarily, in the town they bring with them the sense of another way of life – a freedom, and independence that both Grace and Norah recognise and respond to similarly. Clare, an old friend of Norah’s stays with the Mackays for a time, infecting even the dour Gerald with the promise of unimagined possibilities. Hugh is passionate, exudes vitality, freedom and the ability to do just as he pleases. Clare is young, beautiful and irresistibly unconstrained. Hugh, the reader realises is perhaps not quite all Grace and Norah think he is, and while his charisma is not as obvious to the reader at times, (and I think this is deliberate – as it shows how we can respond most extraordinarily to the almost anyone if our imaginations can make them into something else) there is no doubting his effect upon Grace in particular. Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2017/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Grace Fairfax has been married for years to a hardworking but tedious husband; her outer world is drearily routine, but her inner world is lushly imaginative and dreamy. When the magnetic Hugh Miller enters her life, Grace feels as though her inner life is finally becoming a reality. Critics complained about the dreariness of the characters and their failure to connect, but that's not what bothered me; I found the characters largely engaging and thought part of Lehmann's theme was, in fact, fail Grace Fairfax has been married for years to a hardworking but tedious husband; her outer world is drearily routine, but her inner world is lushly imaginative and dreamy. When the magnetic Hugh Miller enters her life, Grace feels as though her inner life is finally becoming a reality. Critics complained about the dreariness of the characters and their failure to connect, but that's not what bothered me; I found the characters largely engaging and thought part of Lehmann's theme was, in fact, failure to connect. However, there were too many characters and plot threads introduced without being explored sufficiently to keep them interesting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Robson

    I first reviewed this book on Goodreads in 2012 and evidently, according to my goodreads review, I bought the book for $3 in a bookshop by a river. Which river I can’t now recall but that 2012 review of mine still stands and I’m not taking any stars off her either. If anything I am more appreciative. I noticed on reading A Note in Music for the third time how effectively she moves from one point of view to another. We know who we are with in every single scene. I was also blown away this time by I first reviewed this book on Goodreads in 2012 and evidently, according to my goodreads review, I bought the book for $3 in a bookshop by a river. Which river I can’t now recall but that 2012 review of mine still stands and I’m not taking any stars off her either. If anything I am more appreciative. I noticed on reading A Note in Music for the third time how effectively she moves from one point of view to another. We know who we are with in every single scene. I was also blown away this time by her lyrical descriptions of the countryside. I leave you with one of my favourites: “Some essence of the spirit of the spring day seemed to hover, brooding and shining upon the long, sunny stretch of water. The lake was girdled with trees and bushes, and wild song welled out as if from the throats of hundreds and hundreds of choral branches. The unfolding leaves covered the boughs with a manifold variety of little shapes. Knots, hearts, points, clusters of rosettes, dots and tapers of budding foliage, made up embroideries of infinite complexity in jade, in greenish-silver, in honey-yellow; but some were tinged with a russet flames, haunting the eye with an autumnal prophecy.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    Beautifully written, but rather melancholy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is the story of two marriages - one happy, one not - and the story of everybody falling for Clare and Hugh, a young brother and sister, who are the least deserving of love. I picked this up from a charity shop because I browsed some of the dialogue later on in the novel and it sounded promising. It turns out that most of the book is a lead-up to those dialogues. Norah and her husband Gerald, for example, are completely unrelatable people until the final pages on which they reveal themselves This is the story of two marriages - one happy, one not - and the story of everybody falling for Clare and Hugh, a young brother and sister, who are the least deserving of love. I picked this up from a charity shop because I browsed some of the dialogue later on in the novel and it sounded promising. It turns out that most of the book is a lead-up to those dialogues. Norah and her husband Gerald, for example, are completely unrelatable people until the final pages on which they reveal themselves to be capable of empathy and understanding. The novel is focalised through all of the main characters at different stages, contributing to the feeling that each of their individual viewpoints is severely claustrophobic - most of all that of Grace Fairfax who is purposeless and secluded after her baby was stillborn and her puppy died. She is ill-adjusted and full of regret and never meant to marry Tom anyway. All the characters are held back by a lack of communication with people close to them and some never manage to open up (especially Grace's progress is only superficial). I'm not quite sure where the ending of the novel is supposed to leave us. Has Grace grown enough throughout the year to be able to catch up to Norah's emotional maturity and apply this to her own marriage? Why does Hugh, undeserving as he is, get the last word? His obssession with fellow student Oliver and jealousy for Norah's cousin Seddon - Oliver's latest love interest - does not justify his utter oblivion for other people's feelings. This is the first novel by Lehmann I have read and it's supposedly her odd one out. It doesn't allow intimacy with any of the characters until very late (perhaps too late) in the story and leaves many things unresolved. I can see how Lehmann fit in with the Bloomsbury set and this was only her second novel but it's lacking direction a little bit. I am hoping to read some of her other novels though.

  7. 4 out of 5

    dorian lou

    honestly, i liked this book. it was quite boring - but it makes sense for it to be uneventful. the main characters' lives are so terribly sad, i very honestly thought grace would end up killing herself at the end of the book. it's a whole story filled with ghosts and regrets, about missed opportunities, about loves that would never happen again : Norah and her dead lover Jimmy, Grace and her baby (and her puppy), Hugh and his lover (?) Oliver. (I would literally give out my right arm for a book honestly, i liked this book. it was quite boring - but it makes sense for it to be uneventful. the main characters' lives are so terribly sad, i very honestly thought grace would end up killing herself at the end of the book. it's a whole story filled with ghosts and regrets, about missed opportunities, about loves that would never happen again : Norah and her dead lover Jimmy, Grace and her baby (and her puppy), Hugh and his lover (?) Oliver. (I would literally give out my right arm for a book just about Hugh and Oliver, honestly). So maybe it's me developing Stockholm Syndrome after being force-fed Rosamond Lehmann for a good three months now, but I genuinely liked this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mariam Odent

    This is a domestic novel about unhappy people. The writing is sparse and Lehmann is expert in saying a lot with very little words. It's small domestic scenes where what's important is the silence, the void and the unsaid words between people. it centers around the unhappy marriages of Norah and Grace, both of whom have married men who fought in the Great War that has left a mark on them. Lehmann only gives you small hints of that mark since her characters are rarely self-reflective. They go thro This is a domestic novel about unhappy people. The writing is sparse and Lehmann is expert in saying a lot with very little words. It's small domestic scenes where what's important is the silence, the void and the unsaid words between people. it centers around the unhappy marriages of Norah and Grace, both of whom have married men who fought in the Great War that has left a mark on them. Lehmann only gives you small hints of that mark since her characters are rarely self-reflective. They go through life like a routine, like they've given up on ambition and happiness and have settled into a lifeless domestic life. It's a melancholy novel where it's made up of small episodic scenes that build up a portrait of life. If it was a film, it would be one that had numerous long takes of people doing very little but feeling a lot. And in this quietness, there's a lot of beauty as well as sadness. I think you have to have a certain maturity to appreciate this book since it's a book about marriage and the ways people don't know how to communicate and don't get their needs met. It's when the youthful idealism of love and ambition fades and people are left with the day to day difficulties of domestic life. It's also about lives that are lived unexamined because they know it would make them feel so unhappy and regretful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pascale

    A so-so variation on the theme of people leading stunted lives in the provinces. At the centre of the story are 2 couples, Tom and Grace on the one hand, Gerald and Norah on the other. All of a sudden, a young and handsome aristocrat, Hugh, blows into the drab northern town to try his hand at running a family business. Hugh is still pining for a guy he met at Oxford, and with whom he may have had an affair. However, since he has to spend some months in this dump, he floats around, awakening love A so-so variation on the theme of people leading stunted lives in the provinces. At the centre of the story are 2 couples, Tom and Grace on the one hand, Gerald and Norah on the other. All of a sudden, a young and handsome aristocrat, Hugh, blows into the drab northern town to try his hand at running a family business. Hugh is still pining for a guy he met at Oxford, and with whom he may have had an affair. However, since he has to spend some months in this dump, he floats around, awakening love in the bosom of Grace, Norah, and even a hair-dresser who turns tricks to complement her income. Hugh's sister Clare, who used to be friends with Norah before her marriage, turns up too, and captivates Gerald. Most of these characters spend an unforgettable Summer afternoon fishing and playing tennis on an estate belonging to one of Norah's cousins. But of course, nothing happens, Hugh and Clare disappear again, and the only real change is that Grace's maid falls pregnant (not by Hugh!). Hugh and Clare didn't feel nearly as charismatic to this reader as they felt to the other characters in the book. The whole Chekhovian atmosphere is laid on pretty thick, and the descriptions of nature are altogether better than the long-winded psychological analysis.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anbolyn

    A Note in Music is a very melancholy novel, one that doesn’t offer many light or rosy moments for its readers. I found it easy to sympathize with the characters at first, for haven’t most of us felt trapped in the rut of commonplace life? I felt the excitement that Grace feels when Hugh is around, the romantic and positive mood that he ushers in to every situation and her despondency when she isn’t near him. But it began to wear – I wanted Grace to create delight in her own life instead of relyi A Note in Music is a very melancholy novel, one that doesn’t offer many light or rosy moments for its readers. I found it easy to sympathize with the characters at first, for haven’t most of us felt trapped in the rut of commonplace life? I felt the excitement that Grace feels when Hugh is around, the romantic and positive mood that he ushers in to every situation and her despondency when she isn’t near him. But it began to wear – I wanted Grace to create delight in her own life instead of relying on an unsuspecting young man to generate it for her. And I wanted her to see the blessings that were all around her and to appreciate her good fortune. Her only solace comes from nature and Lehmann perfectly describes the trees, flowers and plants that give Grace comfort.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    This was definitely Beatrix's favourite of Rosamond's books. She read it when she was on holiday with Henrietta when it came back. Her letter to her sister was full of praise about the beauty of the prose and the characters. In a way I think Beatrix liked it because it was the lives of very ordinary women that she was in no danger of becoming. They were the dull wives and mothers in society whose lives were pretty empty and meaningless. The prose was quite nice, but it was a little hard to feel This was definitely Beatrix's favourite of Rosamond's books. She read it when she was on holiday with Henrietta when it came back. Her letter to her sister was full of praise about the beauty of the prose and the characters. In a way I think Beatrix liked it because it was the lives of very ordinary women that she was in no danger of becoming. They were the dull wives and mothers in society whose lives were pretty empty and meaningless. The prose was quite nice, but it was a little hard to feel sorry for them when they had chosen such pointless lives in the first place. There were however, several nice passages. But it all felt a bit too futile.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Lehmann deals with so many daring themes for the time - repressed sexuality, circus freak shows, attempted abortions, moonlighting prostitutes and does it all with beautifully elgeant language and a deep sense of humanity.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Beautiful. I liked her "Invitation to the Waltz" slightly better but this was wonderful and on many levels a deeper read. Will definitely read more of her stuff. Beautiful. I liked her "Invitation to the Waltz" slightly better but this was wonderful and on many levels a deeper read. Will definitely read more of her stuff.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deepak Imandi

    I have found this literary Masterpiece in an online vintage book store (Google shbi). 1. The writing of Rosamond is so magical and the language so rich that I literally like underlined 50 times in the entire book. This is a highest sparing some of my philosophy collections. 2. The best part of this novel is, it excellently delves into the emotions of Grace, the protagonist about romance, thoughts, regret, etc 3. I really admire authors like Rosamand, who create an ambience so that, you can litera I have found this literary Masterpiece in an online vintage book store (Google shbi). 1. The writing of Rosamond is so magical and the language so rich that I literally like underlined 50 times in the entire book. This is a highest sparing some of my philosophy collections. 2. The best part of this novel is, it excellently delves into the emotions of Grace, the protagonist about romance, thoughts, regret, etc 3. I really admire authors like Rosamand, who create an ambience so that, you can literally imagine te entire scene happening, as if on a screen in your mind's eye. Feel awesome to have found and read this. Will shelve it in my mini-library for a re-read later on this year.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Goldsmith

    A Note in Music takes a snapshot of lives in the late 1920s in a way that felt very reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, whose book Jacob's Room, gets a small cameo mention. I enjoyed it a great deal, and especially appreciated how Lehmann developed multiple perspectives and showed what characters weren't saying to each other. A Note in Music takes a snapshot of lives in the late 1920s in a way that felt very reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, whose book Jacob's Room, gets a small cameo mention. I enjoyed it a great deal, and especially appreciated how Lehmann developed multiple perspectives and showed what characters weren't saying to each other.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tanner

    A very good, very moving novel. And one of those most astutely drawn gay characters I've come across in literature. Not as psychedelic as her first book "Dusty Answer," but still, a marvelous immersion into the thoughts and fears of her characters; a lacerating journey into two unhappy marriages. It answers the question: "What happens when marvelous women marry uninteresting husbands?" A very good, very moving novel. And one of those most astutely drawn gay characters I've come across in literature. Not as psychedelic as her first book "Dusty Answer," but still, a marvelous immersion into the thoughts and fears of her characters; a lacerating journey into two unhappy marriages. It answers the question: "What happens when marvelous women marry uninteresting husbands?"

  17. 4 out of 5

    5greenway

    Loved this. Great richness to the writing; whirls between characters' points of view in a really engaging way. Loved this. Great richness to the writing; whirls between characters' points of view in a really engaging way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rosamund

    Lehmann writes about love but never in the clichés of the romantic novel. She writes elegantly and with such insight.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lonesome

    depressing and deary but deep with some wonderful passages ,.

  20. 5 out of 5

    B. Morrison

    In her introduction, Janet Watts calls this novel from 1930 “sombre in colour and mood.” I agree, and yet, like its protagonist, the unprepossessing middle-aged housewife, Grace, there is something about it that attracts and holds me, almost I might say enchants me. Grace’s existence in a provincial town in northern England is humdrum indeed. She has Annie to do the housework and cooking, so there is little for her to do all day while her husband Tom is at the office. She lumbers along, thinking In her introduction, Janet Watts calls this novel from 1930 “sombre in colour and mood.” I agree, and yet, like its protagonist, the unprepossessing middle-aged housewife, Grace, there is something about it that attracts and holds me, almost I might say enchants me. Grace’s existence in a provincial town in northern England is humdrum indeed. She has Annie to do the housework and cooking, so there is little for her to do all day while her husband Tom is at the office. She lumbers along, thinking that “Nothing mattered, nothing would ever happen for her again.” She has only one friend, Nora, who occasionally drops by to take her for a drive. Tom, himself, has no friends, aside from some people he goes fishing or plays golf with on weekends. Tom’s goal in life is to keep everything “comfortable and jolly”, but Grace does not have even such a slight ambition. Nora has left behind her gay, debutante years to keep house for her morose husband, Gerry, and their two rowdy boys. She possesses all the vitality that Grace lacks, but even Nora sometimes longs for “rest from this perpetual crumbling of the edges, this shredding out of one’s personality upon minute obligations and responsibilities. She wanted, even for a few moments, to feel her own identity peacefully floating apart from them all.” The two couples’ lives are upended when handsome, cosmopolitan, young Hugh Miller comes to town to try his luck working for his uncle who owns the firm where Tom works. His sister briefly joins him; she had known Nora in the old days but has managed to retain her sophisticated lifestyle. This bright twosome bring home to Grace, Tom, Nora and Gerry just how dull their lives are. As I started the book I could not imagine that people could lead such unexamined lives. But Lehmann gently teases out what is good in them, their small wounds and disappointments. This is a book about that stage of life when we realise our choices are narrowing, and we can’t help but wonder if it’s too late to change our way. I feel privileged to have been given access to the inner lives of these people, to have my perplexity cajoled into compassion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ayreon

    2.5

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Beautiful and true.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark Omeraliao

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sherah

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rejane

  26. 4 out of 5

    rosemary parker

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marion

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter Nelson-King

  29. 4 out of 5

    James Creamer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

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