Monday, 21 March 2016

To Bed With Grand Music - Marghanita Laski

First published in 1946, this was picked up and re-issued by Persephone in 2009.  And it was originally published under a false name too, perhaps because Laski thought people would consider that the Deborah in the book just might be her?

Deborah has a baby and a husband and a cottage in the country (oh! and a housekeeper too), and life is sweet.  Funny how things can change, eh?  Her husband Graham is due to be sent to Egypt, and for the duration of the war, because of his job, he is likely to get no home leave at all.  So, the night before he leaves, he explains that if he is to be away for a long time, he may well find comfort and sex in the arms of a  woman or two, but of course he will not love them, he only loves her.  At first she gets very cross indeed because she wouldn't even consider the same thing herself.  But off he goes, and she soon gets very bored indeed.  She considers taking a job to help the war effort but lets several chances pass her by, until she realises that life in the country with a small boy and nothing else to do is just not enough.

And so, she goes to share a flat temporarily with a friend;  an unmarried friend, who has certainly found her way around the party-time spirit that wartime London evokes, and of course it's not long before Deborah joins the party.  The first man she sleeps with is a one night stand, and she is revolted with herself, and spends hours telling herself that she doesn't even know why she did it, except that Graham is probably at it already.  The next man she sleeps with stays around longer.  An American, married, lonely, charming; is just what she needs.  Dinners out, dancing, parties, and all with a wonderful companion who she enjoys sex with too.  Then he's posted elsewhere.   I don't need to tell you much more about Deoborah's life, except that her true character is revealed to us - a selfish b.itch who wants the good life more than the sex, but is able to achieve the nice clothes, the perfume, the evenings out etc. on the strength of it. 

I can see that this might have been considered strong stuff on initial publication, but only, I believe, because people didn't like to talk about this kind of stuff then, and were hypocritical enough to pretend that it didn't happen much, and in any case, the tale is just the story of a tart.  It isn't.  It's a great small read (under 200 pages).  It conjures the wartime feel very well, and lets you into the head of a woman you may not want to meet, but you'll be glad to make her acquaintance between the pages.

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