ROSAMOND LEHMANN'S new novel takes its title from a quotation from W.S. Landor, "But the present, like a note in music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come". The story is closely related to the mood expressed by Landor. It opens with several well chosen scenes that picture the everyday life of two picture the everyday life of two English couples living in a Northern industrial town.
Upon that background a young Oxford boy and his sister are introduced. They bring to the humdrum provincials a taste of the outside world that was theirs before marriage tied their existance down to a limited routine. The boy is a somewhat typical English lady as lady novelists conceive him to be, and as, indeed, he may in truth be. He is charming and his restless spirit brings to life the suppressed longings of the women he meets. His sister, who is married but does not live with her husband, is the female counterpart of Hugh. She effects men the way her brother does women.
With such characters to work with Miss Lehmann has written a novel of considerable beauty. Bringing together these people in a perfectly normal situation she succeeds in giving her theme a real musical note that develops into a poignant melody when the young couple desert the town and leave the original characters to settle back into their ordinary lives.
Comparisons between "A Note In Music" and Miss Lehmann's remarkable first novel. "Dusty Answer", are inevitable. The author does not lose ground by the process; the new book is a worthy successor to one that portrayed adolescent womanhood as no other has done in a generation of novelists who take adolescence as their only subject matter. The actual writing in the second novel is done in that delightfully delicate prose that brought so much praise for the first. The chief difference is in the scope of the two themes. "Dusty Answer" is centered about the life of one girl, "A Note In Music" is more a study in situation and the characters are consequently drawn to smaller scale. But in both novels Miss Lehmann proves that she can create characters with dramatic life qualities that are equaled in the novels of very few living authors. More than that, she again has something to say.