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.
Originally published in 1946 but republished here by Persephone Books, this is the story of Deborah, who we first meet on the day her husband Graham is going off to the middle east for the war effort. He refuses to stay faithful, and as Deborah is rather a selfish woman, she takes this as permission not to stay faithful too.
Deborah gets a job in London, leaving her young son Timmy under the care of her housekeeper. She soon starts making her way through various affairs, social climbing and learning to appreciate what she sees as the “good things” in life, despite there being a war on. Being married with a child is rarely thought about, apart from when it can be seen as an advantage in getting a newer and better lover.
Deborah is ultimately a very selfish woman, with little commitment to her marriage vows once her husband has gone away, and when it seems that Graham is going abroad (or the housekeeper is threatening to quit) all she can think of is how this will affect her and the life she has managed to acquire.
This book isn’t shocking, per se (there’s no explicit sex scenes for instance) but considering the time it was published, covers a scenario that isn’t discussed much – just how did women survive without “company” when the men were away? It’s also about motherhood – Deborah is too selfish to be a mother and is more interested in her own life rather than looking after her child