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To Bed with Grand Music is about sex in wartime. On the first page (a scene as compelling in its way as the five conception scenes at the beginning of Manja) Deborah and her husband are saying goodbye to each other before he is posted overseas. They swear undying loyalty, well, undying emotional loyalty because the husband does not deny that he might not be able to be fait To Bed with Grand Music is about sex in wartime. On the first page (a scene as compelling in its way as the five conception scenes at the beginning of Manja) Deborah and her husband are saying goodbye to each other before he is posted overseas. They swear undying loyalty, well, undying emotional loyalty because the husband does not deny that he might not be able to be faithful all the time he is away. But once he is gone, Deborah is soon bored by life in a village with her small son and decides to get a job in London. Here she acquires a lover, and another, and another. As Juliet Gardiner, the historian, says in her Preface, this is a near harlot’s tale. But she admires the book very much because it shows such a different side of the war from that shown in, for example, Jocelyn Playfair’s A House in the Country, which is full of people mostly behaving honourably. The book was originally published in 1946 under Laski's pseudonym, Sarah Russell.


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To Bed with Grand Music is about sex in wartime. On the first page (a scene as compelling in its way as the five conception scenes at the beginning of Manja) Deborah and her husband are saying goodbye to each other before he is posted overseas. They swear undying loyalty, well, undying emotional loyalty because the husband does not deny that he might not be able to be fait To Bed with Grand Music is about sex in wartime. On the first page (a scene as compelling in its way as the five conception scenes at the beginning of Manja) Deborah and her husband are saying goodbye to each other before he is posted overseas. They swear undying loyalty, well, undying emotional loyalty because the husband does not deny that he might not be able to be faithful all the time he is away. But once he is gone, Deborah is soon bored by life in a village with her small son and decides to get a job in London. Here she acquires a lover, and another, and another. As Juliet Gardiner, the historian, says in her Preface, this is a near harlot’s tale. But she admires the book very much because it shows such a different side of the war from that shown in, for example, Jocelyn Playfair’s A House in the Country, which is full of people mostly behaving honourably. The book was originally published in 1946 under Laski's pseudonym, Sarah Russell.

30 review for To Bed With Grand Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emer (A Little Haze)

    This book is exactly why I love Persephone books. I knew absolutely nothing about either the author or the blurb before picking this up and so went into the read with zero preconceived ideas... AND I HAD A BLAST! This is set during WWII but is unlike any war novel I've ever read as it entirely focuses on the sexual goings on of a wife once her husband departs for war. And it's a hoot. Oh my god, the lead character Deborah is fabulous. She is entirely deluded, 100% self-centred and is an utter jo This book is exactly why I love Persephone books. I knew absolutely nothing about either the author or the blurb before picking this up and so went into the read with zero preconceived ideas... AND I HAD A BLAST! This is set during WWII but is unlike any war novel I've ever read as it entirely focuses on the sexual goings on of a wife once her husband departs for war. And it's a hoot. Oh my god, the lead character Deborah is fabulous. She is entirely deluded, 100% self-centred and is an utter joy to read about. I mean she's pretty much a terrible human being but wow does she know how to have a good time and I am so here for it. YOU DO YOU DEBORAH! This is brilliantly written, exposes a side to the war that is not much talked about and just makes for a marvellously entertaining read. Loved it. Four stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The description says this is a book about sex during wartime but I actually think it's about a lot more than that. When Deborah's husband, Graham, leaves to do his bit in WWII, it's not long before Deborah is bored with her sedate life in the country and manages to set up a life in London during the week and a life at home with her son (staying with a loving housekeeper) on the weekends. Deborah evolves from a wife professing her undying faithfulness on page one to a professional mistress, takin The description says this is a book about sex during wartime but I actually think it's about a lot more than that. When Deborah's husband, Graham, leaves to do his bit in WWII, it's not long before Deborah is bored with her sedate life in the country and manages to set up a life in London during the week and a life at home with her son (staying with a loving housekeeper) on the weekends. Deborah evolves from a wife professing her undying faithfulness on page one to a professional mistress, taking another lonely war wife under her wing by the end. Despite being incredibly self centered and conniving, I enjoyed the honest way that this book portrays a woman who is able to admit that she wants a particular lifestyle, fashionable clothes, expensive dinners etc etc and will do what she has to to get them. In the opening scene Graham tells Deborah that - as a man - he can't be expected to be faithful but that he will not fall in love with the women that he has sex with while he is away. To me this book is about the double standard of sex and the games we play - even with ourselves - to justify our actions or condemn the actions of others. I've read several other books by Laski and they have all been challenging to the norm and completely absorbing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Rec'd by a new friend who seems to know her stuff. Lost classic, is that what this is?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    Deborah, the protagonist in this novel, is one of the most unpleasant characters I've come across for sometime but this was still a very compelling story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    To bed with Grand Music first published in 1946 just a year after the end of WW2 caused something of a mild sensation in some circles. Marghanita Laski (then writing under the name Sarah Russell) had probably struck something of a nerve. Families were coming back together again after years apart, and therefore the story of a young married woman, who goes right off the rails, and begins quite simply a tart, must have made some very uncomfortable reading. Deborah Robertson and her husband Graham p To bed with Grand Music first published in 1946 just a year after the end of WW2 caused something of a mild sensation in some circles. Marghanita Laski (then writing under the name Sarah Russell) had probably struck something of a nerve. Families were coming back together again after years apart, and therefore the story of a young married woman, who goes right off the rails, and begins quite simply a tart, must have made some very uncomfortable reading. Deborah Robertson and her husband Graham promise constancy and loyalty to one another as Graham prepares to leave for a safe job in the Far East. However it soon becomes apparent that the village life existence of a young army wife will not be enough for Deborah. She was still the girl who had gone to the Slade, in London, purely for the social opportunities it had offered. “When the noise of Graham’s taxi had died away, Deborah’s first sensation was of relief. The strain of his embarkation leave had been almost intolerable, and now that he had inevitably gone, the release from emotional tension was immediate. She had plenty to do. Mrs Chalmers, her mother’s help, dealt with all the cooking and housework of the cottage, but in caring for Timmy, making his clothes, working in the garden, Deborah found her days sufficiently filled. Now that Graham had gone and her week’s isolation with him was ended, there were again the normal social occupations of the village: the evening’s bridge at the doctor’s, the morning a week at the hospital canteen, the swapping over of children so that one or the other mother could get to see the new film in Winchester.” Deborah’s mother and housekeeper Mrs Chalmers hatch a plan for Deborah to get a job to keep her fulfilled. However they hadn’t really reckoned on the life that Deborah finds for herself. Instead of Winchester, Deborah decides on London, sharing a flat with the sophisticated Madeleine, whom she knew from her Slade days. Madeleine is married, her marriage all but over she has no regrets and enjoys a fairly hedonistic existence. She is happy to instruct Deborah in the ways of her world, and Deborah’s corruption is soon complete. However Deborah is no innocent, she knows what she is about, and is very good at justifying her behaviour to herself. She is a selfish, even manipulative woman, embarking on a series of affairs, while her husband serves his country abroad, and her toddler son stays in the country with the housekeeper. Deborah goes home to the country and her young son at the weekend, but inevitably he becomes closer to Mrs Chalmers than to his mother. “Very quickly Deborah’s life with Joe achieved a recognisable pattern. Now that she was definitely his mistress, she had a relationship with him that was accepted by his friends as formal and permanent within the limits imposed by war. Now he would bring his friends home to drink at the flat, now he would take her out to dine with his friends and their mistresses, so that the regular tempo of a married life imposed itself upon them. Very soon, the situation was admitted to Madeleine and accepted by her, so that social life inside the flat became more communal and general.” Deborah is not a very sympathetic character, although I am sure there were plenty of women just like her at this time. The changes and uncertainties of life during the war years, made it inevitable that people, men and women went looking for fun and excitement. What Laski has done so well in this novel is to create a wonderful antithesis to the usual, jolly hockey sticks stiff upper lip we’ll fight them on the beaches sort of attitude, that one finds in WW2 novels. There may well have been plenty of such women, they were undoubtedly the backbone of this country in those days. Women who quite literally did keep the home fires burning, but Deborah Robertson is not like them. She is frustrated by the absence of her husband, bored by the country village where she lives, and manages to convince herself that her son will be happier if she is happy and fulfilled. What Deborah has to ask herself, and what the reader will also be asking themselves – is what will happen after the war, can Deborah really just go back to being a good country wife of a returned army Captain? I have to say I disliked Deborah intensely, though she is a fascinatingly flawed character. To bed With Grand Music is the third of Marghanita Laski’s novels I have read and although I think I loved The Village and Little boy Lost rather more, it is a brilliant read and a fascinating glimpse of a different wartime attitude.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pascale

    One of Persephone's best titles. I am not sure I agree with Juliet Gardiner's introduction that Deborah "exemplifies war's dark underside." I see her more as a Madame Bovary, desperately yearning for the trappings of wealth and glamour and unable to find satisfaction in any kind of meaningful relationship: she resents her mother, likes her baby well enough, but mostly when he proves a useful prop for seducing a man, and isn't, in fact terribly sensual, let alone capable of passion. War, in effec One of Persephone's best titles. I am not sure I agree with Juliet Gardiner's introduction that Deborah "exemplifies war's dark underside." I see her more as a Madame Bovary, desperately yearning for the trappings of wealth and glamour and unable to find satisfaction in any kind of meaningful relationship: she resents her mother, likes her baby well enough, but mostly when he proves a useful prop for seducing a man, and isn't, in fact terribly sensual, let alone capable of passion. War, in effect, provides Deborah with a marvelous opportunity for leading the kind of life she wants, which is basically that of a high-class prostitute. One great strength of the book is that Laski does't express moral outrage, but nor does she make Deborah such a brilliant rake that you have to admire her at least a bit. If there's any message in this novel, it seems to be that not even a world war can make sordid people like Deborah behave themselves.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A book about sex during wartime, and a refreshing insight into women's lives during wartime that isn't entirely focused on working towards the war effort and keeping the home. The protagonist Deborah is both wonderful and hateful, a really divisive character who I adored reading about. She begins the novel having some kind of moral code, but as she makes the move to London to work (under the guise that it will benefit her child more than having her at home), she begins to fall into affair after a A book about sex during wartime, and a refreshing insight into women's lives during wartime that isn't entirely focused on working towards the war effort and keeping the home. The protagonist Deborah is both wonderful and hateful, a really divisive character who I adored reading about. She begins the novel having some kind of moral code, but as she makes the move to London to work (under the guise that it will benefit her child more than having her at home), she begins to fall into affair after affair after affair - and her fall is brilliant. The ending was not what I expected, and was darkly comic which I really appreciated, and overall I thought this was great fun. I'll definitely be checking out Marghanita Laski's other work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Such a refreshing change from the usual "patient little woman waiting at home" wartime story that I have to give it 5 stars even though (or perhaps because) Deborah is one of the most unlikeable heroines you could hope to encounter. She spends the war in self-deception and justification as she proceeds to have a good time with various men, leaving her child with a housekeeper and jettisoning all promises to be faithful to her husband almost as soon as his back is turned.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Deborah and her husband make various promises of fidelity to each other before he departs for an overseas assignment in WWII Cairo. Whether he keeps his promise is unknown; the novel focuses on Deborah and how her promise eventually erodes as she looks for more excitement than life at home in the village with her young son can provide. In some ways the story and its underlying assumptions have dated; in others, not at all. While Deborah is not a likable character, the book provides an interestin Deborah and her husband make various promises of fidelity to each other before he departs for an overseas assignment in WWII Cairo. Whether he keeps his promise is unknown; the novel focuses on Deborah and how her promise eventually erodes as she looks for more excitement than life at home in the village with her young son can provide. In some ways the story and its underlying assumptions have dated; in others, not at all. While Deborah is not a likable character, the book provides an interesting perspective on how the stress of war affected her life and choices.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    First published in 1946 and reprinted by the wonderful Persephone Press, this novel is about a woman who behaves very differently from most others we’ve met in books about London during WWII. From the first few pages Deborah Robertson emerges as a thoroughly unlikable and extremely flawed protagonist. Although she has promised to be faithful to her husband she quickly tires of living alone in a tiny village with nothing to do but care for her toddler son. So she convinces herself that he would b First published in 1946 and reprinted by the wonderful Persephone Press, this novel is about a woman who behaves very differently from most others we’ve met in books about London during WWII. From the first few pages Deborah Robertson emerges as a thoroughly unlikable and extremely flawed protagonist. Although she has promised to be faithful to her husband she quickly tires of living alone in a tiny village with nothing to do but care for her toddler son. So she convinces herself that he would be better off left in the care of a kindly housekeeper in order to leave her free to move to London and find a job. We learn very little about what that job actually consists of, because it quickly becomes apparent that what Deborah is really interested in is taking advantage of London’s social scene. She does so by engaging in a series of affairs with only an occasional twitch of guilt thanks to how adept she is at making excuses for herself in order to justify her behavior and blame others for the predicaments she frequently finds herself in. It was interesting to gain a different perspective on the war through the eyes of a woman who found a way to live a glamorous life in and out of expensive restaurants, lively nightclubs, fancy hotels and elaborate parties. Meanwhile the men she slept with kept her generously supplied with fashionable clothing, jewelry and other black market luxuries despite the shortages, rationing and deprivations most other Londoners had to put up with. Even though I thoroughly disliked the protagonist of this novel, I very much enjoyed the book. Like others published by Persephone Press it includes a Preface - in this case by historian Juliet Gardiner. Commenting on the significance of the novel in its historical and social context, Gardiner observes that while the it appeared only a year after the end of the war while emotions were still running high, it acknowledged that for many people life on the homefront meant “getting around regulations, bending the rules, profiting from the war, of deceit, irresponsibility and having a good time while others sacrificed and suffered.” This book makes it obvious that not all war wives were content to stay put and keep the home fires burning during those terrible years.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Boorrito

    For a book about a married woman sleeping around with lots (and lots) of men during a war, Deborah's relationships with other women are just and possibly even more important than her relationships with men. The men she sleeps with become very disposable by the end and her husband and son don't fare much better. Deborah's competitive relationship with Madeline seems to drive her further and further into her "downfall" and much more effectively than any of the men do. (view spoiler)[It's the fear For a book about a married woman sleeping around with lots (and lots) of men during a war, Deborah's relationships with other women are just and possibly even more important than her relationships with men. The men she sleeps with become very disposable by the end and her husband and son don't fare much better. Deborah's competitive relationship with Madeline seems to drive her further and further into her "downfall" and much more effectively than any of the men do. (view spoiler)[It's the fear that Madeline is still better than her that pushes her to ask for Pierre's training, and it's no wonder Graham's afraid that she's staying with Madeline when he hears she's going to London. It's her mother who gets her out of trouble, Mrs Chamblers who provides the nearest thing Deborah has to a conscience about her son and it's another lonely young war wife she takes under her wing at the end, not a man. (hide spoiler)] There's more I could write about this book, like how accurately it reflects the double standards of sex and the lies people tell themselves to justify doing something that they want to do (no, Timmy won't be better off for you running off to London and sleeping around), but other people have written better about it, and the female relationships caught my attention. I haven't encountered another book like this set in this period, and I recommend it as a counterbalance to all the books about outstanding women who keep everything ticking over on the home front.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Spira

    An unusual book for its time, published just after the end of WW2 and under a pseudonym, and a stark contrast to much of the fiction appearing at that time. The central character, Deborah, is extremely unlikeable, as are most of the other characters: selfish, exploitative and not even really enjoying their privileged and promiscuous lives. Even the housekeeper, Mrs Chalmers, left in sole charge of Deborah's small son Timmy, is not presented as entirely sympathetic. (As for poor Timmy, one dreads An unusual book for its time, published just after the end of WW2 and under a pseudonym, and a stark contrast to much of the fiction appearing at that time. The central character, Deborah, is extremely unlikeable, as are most of the other characters: selfish, exploitative and not even really enjoying their privileged and promiscuous lives. Even the housekeeper, Mrs Chalmers, left in sole charge of Deborah's small son Timmy, is not presented as entirely sympathetic. (As for poor Timmy, one dreads to think how he turned out, although with such a mother, perhaps neglect was a preferable option for him.). I really liked the subtle irony in the writing - the title is itself nicely ironic - and Deborah's lack of self-awareness and moral hypocrisy is expertly portrayed. But it did leave me slightly irritable because I wanted Deborah to get her comeuppance. I read Juliet Gardiner's preface after I'd finished the book. It sets it neatly in context and I found it very interesting. Persephone Books do a very valuable job of rescuing such novels from obscurity and finding knowledgeable people to write about them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    The writing style of this book is great, and the way Laski unfolds the plot is also beautiful. With this said, this it probably the first time I ever wanted the main character to just DIE. Just get caught in an air raid and freakin' die. Watching this woman decline into, what I believe to be, a horrible life and justify it for herself was hard to read. Perhaps if the main character was more dimensional, I would have sympathized with this decline more. Unfortunately, she has the emotional range o The writing style of this book is great, and the way Laski unfolds the plot is also beautiful. With this said, this it probably the first time I ever wanted the main character to just DIE. Just get caught in an air raid and freakin' die. Watching this woman decline into, what I believe to be, a horrible life and justify it for herself was hard to read. Perhaps if the main character was more dimensional, I would have sympathized with this decline more. Unfortunately, she has the emotional range of a teaspoon and I just couldn't muster any pity for her, much less get attached to the character while watching her wild ride. Perhaps this was Laski's goal? I want to give this book 2 stars, but opted for 3 because the writing, plot development, and scenery is well written. I also think it would be enjoyable book for those who prefer this type of genre, but I'm an escapist reader and this just wasn't up my alley.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Squeak2017

    Laski originally published this under a pseudonym as the subject matter was so sensitive, but fair play to her for telling it as it was. The official line for the benefit of the men fighting overseas was that women were supporting the war effort on the home front with courage and emotional strength. However, the unpalatable truth was that not all women were honest and faithful to their husbands. Promiscuous Deborah seduces man after man, even her husband’s friend, yet feels no remorse; it is his Laski originally published this under a pseudonym as the subject matter was so sensitive, but fair play to her for telling it as it was. The official line for the benefit of the men fighting overseas was that women were supporting the war effort on the home front with courage and emotional strength. However, the unpalatable truth was that not all women were honest and faithful to their husbands. Promiscuous Deborah seduces man after man, even her husband’s friend, yet feels no remorse; it is his contempt for her which corrects the perspective. To be fair to her, she is only behaving as her husband does, and yet as a woman, she is judged more harshly for her sexual freedom. Both Deborah and her husband are morally bankrupt and use wartime laissez faire as an excuse for their selfishness. Laski does not flinch from the truth and writes with her usual clarity and precision.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susann

    When her husband is sent to Egypt during WWII, Deborah sets off on her own adventures of going from man to man to man to man.... From the beginning Deborah's selfish nature is out in full force and as soon as she abandons her son to his nanny - so that she can move to London where all the men are - her trajectory becomes clear. Laski's writing makes it impossible to like Deborah, but easy to be fascinated by her choices. (She doesn't even take much pleasure in sex, and yet she continues on her ma When her husband is sent to Egypt during WWII, Deborah sets off on her own adventures of going from man to man to man to man.... From the beginning Deborah's selfish nature is out in full force and as soon as she abandons her son to his nanny - so that she can move to London where all the men are - her trajectory becomes clear. Laski's writing makes it impossible to like Deborah, but easy to be fascinated by her choices. (She doesn't even take much pleasure in sex, and yet she continues on her manhunt.) Her talents for self-deception and rationalizations are extraordinary, and that is where the reader gets hooked. Maybe my own rationalizations have nothing to do with abandoning hubby and little Timmy and more to do with not going to the gym, but they are rationalizations nevertheless.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    Deborah Robertson, the main character in this book, is quite possibly the most horrid fictional character I've read about in some time. She is a horrible friend, a rotten mother, and to say she's an unfaithful wife is a gross understatement. The end of the novel offers no redemption as Deborah only becomes more of a lying slut. Fortunately this novel was a quick read at just 200 pages, and only Marghanita Laski's skill as a writer kept me turning pages.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Coffey

    The anti-heroine is an expert at rationalizing her behavior. A fascinating study of the rapidly deteriorating moral code of a young English wife left to cope at home while her husband is off to War. One begins to think early on that the character has no moral compass to start with; she is not immoral so much as she is amoral.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    "Happy are they that go to bed with grand music, like Pythagoras, or have ways to compose the fantastical spirit, whose unruly wanderings take off inward sleepe". So writes Sir Thomas Browne in his essay "On Dreams", and whose words accurately describe the main character in Marghanita Laski's wartime novel, TO BED WITH GRAND MUSIC. When the reader first meets Deborah, she is bidding farewell to her husband Graham, who is leaving for military duty in Cairo as WW2 rages on. She is in her early 20' "Happy are they that go to bed with grand music, like Pythagoras, or have ways to compose the fantastical spirit, whose unruly wanderings take off inward sleepe". So writes Sir Thomas Browne in his essay "On Dreams", and whose words accurately describe the main character in Marghanita Laski's wartime novel, TO BED WITH GRAND MUSIC. When the reader first meets Deborah, she is bidding farewell to her husband Graham, who is leaving for military duty in Cairo as WW2 rages on. She is in her early 20's, and the couple have a toddler son named Timmy who is looked after primarily by the housekeeper Mrs. Chalmers. They live in a small, quaint village near Winchester, England - about an hour's train ride from London. As they are parting, her husband hopes that she will be faithful to him while he is gone, but confesses outright to Deborah that he will not be. He rationalizes to her, "God alone knows how long I may be stuck in Mid-East, and it's no good saying I can do with a woman for three or four years, because I can't. But I promise that I'll never let myself fall in love with anyone else, and I'll never sleep with anyone who could possibly fill your place in any part of my life" (pg 2). As the first months without her husband drag on, Deborah finds herself bored and restless, so she decides to go to London to find a job and some fun. As you might suspect by now, Deborah doesn't have much in the way of a maternal instinct, and she relies heavily on Mrs. Chalmers to raise Timmy. In fact, when she goes to London, Deborah dumps Timmy on the housekeeper during the week and only comes home on weekends to spend time with him. This arrangement changes during the course of the novel, with plans eventually being discussed about enrolling Timmy in boarding school, all to allow Deborah more freedom in her lifestyle. She first shares an apartment with a girlhood friend, Madeline, who is living an enviable life in London. She goes out most every night with different men, eating lavish meals, drinking, dancing, and enjoying the contraband gifts they can give her. Because this is wartime, things like hosiery, perfume, makeup, alcohol, and fashionable clothing are unavailable or cost a hefty sum. However, the men seem to be able to produce these goods without too much discernible effort. They key is in getting the man, according to Madeline. At first, Deborah plays the part of the dutiful wife, working her secretarial job during the day and staying in the flat at night. However, she is conflicted because she wants to have fun and get attention like Madeline, yet knows that she is a wife and mother and should maybe be acting like it. This all changes when she meets Peter, a wildly handsome Brit. Madeline, her beau Robert, Deborah, and Peter double-date at a swanky club for dinner and dancing. After awhile, and after many drinks, Deborah ends up back at Peter's apartment where they share a few more drinks and, high on the attention she's getting from this man and the effects of the alcohol, they spend the night together. She's hungover and horrified at her behavior the next morning, but not enough to return permanently to her quiet, domestic life in Winchester. In fact, this begins a 2-year spree of Deborah sleeping her way around London with many, many men. After Peter, she has affairs with a few American servicemen who are temporarily stationed in London. Joe is shockingly like her husband, and his wife is expecting their first child so he and Deborah talk a great deal about parenthood, among doing other things. This affair only ends when Joe is transferred elsewhere during the war. The other is Sheldon, a man who isn't interested in any particular friendship with Deborah, only a companion for dining, dancing, and his bed. After that, one of Madeline's previous beaus, a Frenchman named Pierre, seeks her out and they begin an affair that marks a turning point in Deborah's life. Pierre was initially attracted to her because of her naivete and authenticity, which was different from most of the women he had dated in London. Deborah, on the other hand, wanted him to educate her in the art of seduction. She wanted to lose herself and become someone who would exist exclusively to please men, primarily in a sexual way, and receive gifts in return. This is important because it demonstrates just how far she has shifted from when the novel began. She berated her husband for declaring that he would have affairs when he was away at war, and now she is being serially unfaithful to him. Pierre, although fully disgusted with the woman Deborah has become, devotes three weeks to training her in the way a mistress should dress, what she should eat and drink, and other kinds of style and form to attract a man - the way to behave as a prostitute outside of the bedroom. He eventually breaks the affair and introduces Deborah to a Brazilian named Luis Vardas, a man who is willing to teach her the kinds of athletics she wants to learn. Luis finishes what Pierre began; Deborah's transition to a whore is complete. She is no longer the woman she was at the start of the story. The novel ends with a bit of ambiguity about her own future, but she is shown taking another women, much like Deborah used to be, under her wing. The reader is left to assume that she leads the woman down the same path, as Madeline did for Deborah. Throughout the novel, the author makes interesting statements about parental responsibilities, different nationalities, and life during WW2. Deborah's home village is always seen as a safe place, somewhere she could escape from the complexities and stresses of life in London. During The Blitz, many families made the difficult decision to send their children out to the country, often times staying with complete strangers or friends-of-friends-of-the-family in the hope that they wouldn't be bombed by the Axis Powers. Deborah, instead, leaves this safety and security for what she thinks will be the excitement and adventure of London. Her concerns are almost entirely for herself, while she leaves her very young son at home with Mrs. Chalmers. She would rather play at the single life in the big city than accept and embrace her parental duties at home. It's possible to think that Deborah was just enjoying herself while she was still young...she was married to a man that she didn't wholly know and accepted a life that she didn't entirely want. But, in truth, she was ignoring her responsibilities - almost pretending they don't exist. When she does go home to visit Timmy, she focuses on showing him a good time and devoting attention to him, but when she goes back to London, it is up entirely on Mrs. Chalmers to raise, discipline, educate, and fully raise the child. She is much more of a mother to him than Deborah. When reading about Deborah's various affairs, it's worth considering why the author chose the specific nationalities for the men as she did. She and her husband are both British, and the first man she sleeps with is also British - and in many ways similar to her husband. She is having an affair that allows her to, with some mental and moral gymnastics, to feel as though she isn't cheating at all. It would be interesting to think if their affair would have continued, and therefore if she would have had any of the other experiences that she ends up having, if Peter hadn't been called away. The next two men are both Americans but have very different in temperaments. One is interested in developing a real relationship, with romance and intimacy in addition to the sex. The other man is purely interested in Deborah in a physical way. The next man is French, and regarded as an expert in what a mistress should be and do. The French are stereotypically seen as being hedonistic, interested in worldly pleasures of food, wine, and romance, so it seems like the author is playing into those stereotypes here. The next man, a Brazilian, is seen as someone with so much sexual prowess that an affair with him would be like earning a university degree in the subject. The final man who is specifically mentioned in the cavalcade is Ken, who worked with Deborah's husband in Egypt during the war. He comes bearing a package of trinkets for Deborah and Timmy to enjoy, and wants to get to know her because of how highly her husband had talked about her. They spend an evening together, and she brings him back to her apartment and seduces him. In the morning, he feels taken in by her and has a complete revulsion to her. It seems that Ken functions as a "substitute Graham", because his response to her loose sexual behavior affects her much more deeply than have any of the other men she's slept with. She doesn't care about their opinions, but Ken's opinion matters a great deal...so much so that she takes tremendous action (much of it using behavior she assumedly learned from Pierre) to change Ken's mind about what kind of woman she is. He doesn't forget what she has done, but is willing to see her in a more favorable light as he departs. One of the most interesting things that the author does in TO BED WITH GRAND MUSIC is challenge the dominant and enduring narrative of what people were like during WW2, especially Londoners during The Blitz. When modern audiences think about life during this time in history, we think of people sacrificing luxuries for The Greater Good, keeping the home fires burning, and being friendly and restrained. This book shows that, in truth, life couldn't have been like that. Men and women still crave attention, and some people may be willing to take moral lapses in order to obtain it. While many things were rationed or banned, if one knew the right person you could get just about anything you wanted. People who were selfish and self-centered before the war weren't much different during it. There was some sense of community, but not nearly to the level that history would have us believe. Overall, TO BED WITH GRAND MUSIC was a surprising and thought-provoking read. The author tackles a subject, marital fidelity during wartime, and does so in interesting ways. Through the women and men that Deborah meets, she learns something that contributes to her moral decline and fall. It gives the reader pause to see if he/she would, if found in similar circumstances and of a similar age, behave in the ways that Deborah does. She has a fantastical spirit - to almost a childish level - and her life takes many unruly wanderings. Deborah is entirely happy to go to bed with grand music.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pauline Butcher Bird

    I bought this book because it's set in the Second World War and I'm researching my own novel also set in the same period. To my surprise, our heroine, Deborah, is out to restaurants and dances with a series of men with whom she has sex and learns about relationships. Only once does the siren go but even then they ignore it, go to bed and within a few sentences the All Clear is sounded. I liked the ending that nicely rounds off Deborah's learning curve about men, but really it is not well-written I bought this book because it's set in the Second World War and I'm researching my own novel also set in the same period. To my surprise, our heroine, Deborah, is out to restaurants and dances with a series of men with whom she has sex and learns about relationships. Only once does the siren go but even then they ignore it, go to bed and within a few sentences the All Clear is sounded. I liked the ending that nicely rounds off Deborah's learning curve about men, but really it is not well-written and I can see why this is published by Persephone Books who specialise in neglected authors.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Clare Harvey

    Something a little bit Madame Bovary-ish about this book (plenty of sex and shopping). Without giving away too many spoilers, it's a 'nice' woman's fall from grace, set against a backdrop of wartime London. Loved the sophistry in the protagonist's justification for her increasingly dodgy moral choices. It's the antithesis of all those wartime stories that end with the lovers finally getting their happily-ever-after when the war ends. Sharp and cleverly drawn.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    She could only say defiantly, “Well, even if what you think its true it’s not all that wrong. You’ve never had to do without your husband, and in any case, you’re different from me. Some women can do without a man and some can’t, and I’m one of those that can’t.” Oh, the lies that we tell ourselves to allow us to behave however we choose. “Deborah, said Joe, “I want to tell you what my wife said to me in New York just before I came away. she said, “Joe, you’re a normal man and we’re maybe going She could only say defiantly, “Well, even if what you think its true it’s not all that wrong. You’ve never had to do without your husband, and in any case, you’re different from me. Some women can do without a man and some can’t, and I’m one of those that can’t.” Oh, the lies that we tell ourselves to allow us to behave however we choose. “Deborah, said Joe, “I want to tell you what my wife said to me in New York just before I came away. she said, “Joe, you’re a normal man and we’re maybe going to be parted for a long time. It’s no good shutting our eyes to what’s going to happen, but I’m going to ask you one thing. Don’t cheapen our marriage. I’d hate you to think of you going with any cheap woman and then coming back to me. But if you ever find a girl you can really respect, like you do me, I wouldn’t mind so much, because it wouldn’t be cheap.” And the consequences that those lies can have. To Bed With Grand Music is a story about those lies – ones that we sometimes don’t realise are untruths – and those consequences. The story open with Deborah in bed with her husband Graham. He is about to go away and, though he does not offer the same, she promises loyalty and fidelity. But that promise is swiftly broken. Deborah is bored at home and her mother and her housekeeper are more than willing to take care of her infant son. And so Deborah heads for London. To keep busy, to help the war effort, to be happier… But Deborah meets Joe, a charming American, a family man without his family. A relationship develops. When Joe is sent overseas Deborah meets Sheldon, another American. And then Pierre, an older Frenchman. “Pierre, said Deborah urgently. “Will you teach me to be a good mistress?” “I tell you it is a question of temperament,” said Pierre, “and you do not understand, because you have not got that temperament. But you have got a lot of other things, beauty and freshness and naivety.” “To hell with naivety,” though Deborah angrily, “I’m damned if I’m going to be put off learning what I want, just because Pierre likes me naive.” I couldn’t find it in myself to like Deborah. But though it might seem that it would be easy to dismiss her as selfish and vacuous, it wasn’t. There isn’t too much background, but it was fairly clear that Deborah was a trophy wife. A woman who could only see herself as significant in relation to her man. Her mother’s character strongly suggested that she had been brought up to be just that. She had no other interests, no idea how to occupy her time. But she lied to herself about what she was doing, what the effects would be. Did she realise? I think she did, but I think she just lied to herself again so she could carry on. Yes, she was selfish. She was vacuous. And she was responsible for her actions and their effects. There would be more men as Deborah turns slowly from a faithless wife into a scarlet woman. Her journey was compelling and utterly convincing. And so I found another Marghanita Laski book that I could argue with while reading. She is so good at that! She’s great at characters and storytelling too, and she makes some very telling points along the way about double standards and the emotional effects of war. And then there’s the ending. She is so so good at endings, and this one is stunning. War is over, and the implications of that do not suit Deborah one little bit. Even after everything that has gone before, it is a shock to realise what Deborah has become. Little Boy Lost. The Village. The Victorian Chaise-Longue. To Bed With Grand Music. Four novels by Marghanita Laski reissued by Persephone books. All different and all excellent. Oh for a fifth!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Verity W

    I loved this so much. So much. Deborah, our protagonist, is dreadful. She's a terrible, terrible person but you just can't stop reading about her. At the start of the book, she and her husband Graham are in bed together ahead of his departure to Cairo to do war work. On the very first page Graham says he can't promise to be physically faithful, but promises not to fall in love and not to sleep with anyone who might fill her place in his life. He asks her to promise the same. But Deborah doesn't I loved this so much. So much. Deborah, our protagonist, is dreadful. She's a terrible, terrible person but you just can't stop reading about her. At the start of the book, she and her husband Graham are in bed together ahead of his departure to Cairo to do war work. On the very first page Graham says he can't promise to be physically faithful, but promises not to fall in love and not to sleep with anyone who might fill her place in his life. He asks her to promise the same. But Deborah doesn't take him up on this offer - instead she swears that she will be faithful to him and to not act on any attraction she feels to another man. Deborah does not keep her promise... In fact Deborah is a mistress of self-justification and can pretty much turn any situation around so that in her head she can justify what it is that she wants to do as being right. Soon after Graham's departure she's bored in the countryside and decides that the best thing for her would be to move to London and get a war job, leaving behind her son with the housekeeper come nanny - because this would make him happier because although he'll see less of her, he'll only see the best of his mother. Thus the tone of Deborah's self-delusion is set. I think Deborah is pretty much impossible to like, but instead you're fascinated by her progress as she slowly abandons all her standards and rules and manages to rationalism absolutely anything if it means she can do exactly as she wants and to try and get the glamorous life that she thinks she deserves. Deborah is all the worst traits of Calypso from the Camomile Lawn and Louise and Zoe from the Cazalet Chronicles and it makes her adventures compulsively readable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moppet

    When Deborah's husband goes to war she is adamant that she will be faithful to him even though he says he can’t promise the same. Once he is out of the way, she keeps her vow for about five minutes. Deborah is a snob, a social climber, a bad daughter and a worse mother, a serial adulteress who abandons her country’s service in order to live like a wartime Belle de Jour. And I loved every minute of reading about her. Cross-posted to The Misadventures of Moppet When Deborah's husband goes to war she is adamant that she will be faithful to him even though he says he can’t promise the same. Once he is out of the way, she keeps her vow for about five minutes. Deborah is a snob, a social climber, a bad daughter and a worse mother, a serial adulteress who abandons her country’s service in order to live like a wartime Belle de Jour. And I loved every minute of reading about her. Cross-posted to The Misadventures of Moppet

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ginny

    I read this one a few months back and it really stayed with me. The heroine is utterly unlikable but it was fascinating to see how she justifies her selfish behavior. It's a compelling portrait of a woman who wants glamor and excitement and who uses the upheaval of war to achieve those ends in ways she never would have done in peacetime. Read it while listening to Vera Lynn sing "White Cliffs of Dover" for a pretty jarring experience: hear the noble response to war and read about the sordid one, I read this one a few months back and it really stayed with me. The heroine is utterly unlikable but it was fascinating to see how she justifies her selfish behavior. It's a compelling portrait of a woman who wants glamor and excitement and who uses the upheaval of war to achieve those ends in ways she never would have done in peacetime. Read it while listening to Vera Lynn sing "White Cliffs of Dover" for a pretty jarring experience: hear the noble response to war and read about the sordid one, all at once.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roo

    I really liked this book, as it portrayed an aspect of war life that is very much overlooked. Extremely well written and readable, it tells the story of Deborah whose husband is posted to Cairo, Deborah decides she does not want to be a full time mother. She moves to London to do a full time job. moving in with a friend, who introduces her to a handsome Officer... this sets Deborah off on a series of affairs. I would recommend this book, both as a novel and as an insight of social history of 40' I really liked this book, as it portrayed an aspect of war life that is very much overlooked. Extremely well written and readable, it tells the story of Deborah whose husband is posted to Cairo, Deborah decides she does not want to be a full time mother. She moves to London to do a full time job. moving in with a friend, who introduces her to a handsome Officer... this sets Deborah off on a series of affairs. I would recommend this book, both as a novel and as an insight of social history of 40's Britain in wartime, and the attitudes to sex.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David B

    An uncomfortable read about loneliness and pleasure-seeking during extraordinary times. The account is honest and frank and there are moments of humour. Ultimately, although the narrator does not judge Deborah, she is not redeemed and one is left speculating what happened next. The preface is a fine essay by Juliet Gardiner and should be read only after the conclusion of the novel for best effect.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Utterly refreshing! A book about sex in war time and the things we'll tell ourselves in order to justify the more morally dubious things we want. Engaging and cleanly written, the relationships were all so interesting and I'm so glad I picked this up - it's so unlike anything I've ever read about wartime!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    This was an amazing novel. Quite shocking in its own way. Witty too, and altogether an entertaining, fascinating book. I've now read three of Marghanita Laski's books, and will read them all. Fantastic writer.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

    Not your expected London-during-the-Blitz read of women keeping the home fires burning during wartime. Absolutely compelling.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Somersetlovestoread

    To hold and read a Persephone book is to experience all the joy a novel can convey - even before opening it! Going back to the experience of wartime Britain from the women who actually lived through it can be a revelation; forget any preconceived notions you may have, these girls were quite something! The fundamental change to society led to behaviour that simply would not have occurred under any other circumstances, which the last few pages of the novel show brilliantly. Men who seemed exciting To hold and read a Persephone book is to experience all the joy a novel can convey - even before opening it! Going back to the experience of wartime Britain from the women who actually lived through it can be a revelation; forget any preconceived notions you may have, these girls were quite something! The fundamental change to society led to behaviour that simply would not have occurred under any other circumstances, which the last few pages of the novel show brilliantly. Men who seemed exciting in uniform and away from home become terribly ordinary on returning to routine office jobs. For Deborah the future is far from certain as the war ends but what a life she led during her husband's posting overseas. I am always surprised by what the authors of the time reveal to us about their lives as it bears little or no relation to the films and books conceived recently by modern authors. It is absolutely worth returning to that time just about still in living memory but a world away from our lives in the 21st century.

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