Rosamond Lehmann’s first novel, now a classic of British literature, tells a luminous story of friendship, discovery, and forbidden love
This debut novel, set in the early 1900s, tells the story of Judith Earle, a solitary only child growing up in a sprawling house in the Thames Valley. From an early age, she is fascinated by the six cousins who live next door.
There’s boring, faithful Martin, of the red cheeks and perennially scabby knees; beautiful, aristocratic Charlie, whom Judith secretly adores and who will die in the First World War; reckless Julian, who turns lying into an art; enigmatic Roddy, who visits only occasionally; and Mariella, whose marriage to her first cousin will end tragically, and who lives with the scandal of her mother running off with another man. Every year, the Fyfe family returns to this idyllic corner of England. Childhood friendships blossom into adolescent romance as the cousins fall in love with Judith—and she with them. But her world transforms forever when she meets a beautiful fellow student named Jennifer.
A novel in many ways ahead of its time, Dusty Answer is about love: first love, love on the rebound, taboo love, the loss of love. With its gentle indictment of England’s class system, it is also about what goes on behind the closed doors of genteel society, and the self-deceptions we spin in order to give our lives meaning.