Middlemere 4 (Chapter 6)



The third part of the book takes place between 1954 and 1956. Romy is now happy in her job as Mrs Plummer’s secretary. She has her own bedsit, which, although it is a bit sombre and plain, makes her feel independent. Her life in London is also full of new sensations and friends. Jake Meliphant, a painter she chanced to meet when she was on an errand for Mrs Plummer, has become her best friend. Jake is quite an eccentric, and at first he tried to seduce her, but after a few refusals from her part, Jake just became a good friend. Romy also dated several men, but none of them made much of an impression. Then she meets Tom Barnes, a writer in the making, and from the first moment there is something intense between them. I can’t say that Romy is in love with him, but she feels drawn to him, and thanks to Tom, he enters a more eclectic circle of friends. Tom is the man she loses her virginity to, but I still think she is not in love with him.

At work she is in her element as she learns the ropes of how to run a hotel in all the departments. There has been a few opportunities for her to travel with Mrs Plummer to Paris and Nice. What she feels upset about is that such a great woman as Mrs Plummer is puts up with someone like Johnnie Fitzgerald, who everybody describes as a rascal. He really is and treats Mrs Plummer terribly. Mrs Plummer has had an interesting story, starting terribly with a father who gave her continuous beatings. Then she went into service, and at that point she realises she could use her looks for her own advantage. Then she went to London where she worked in a nightclub. On a cruise she met her first husband, a rich widower with a plantation in Java, and when he died she returned to London where she bought her nightclub. She married again, this time her new husband only wanted a facade as he was not interested in women. He died of pneumonia during the war, but she had a new lover who left her the hotel. And now she is in love with Johnny for the first time in her life, and she couldn’t have chosen a worse man to love. Romy is outraged on her behalf, and she feels it is not fair for her boss to let the man treat her like that.

As for Evelyn Daubeny, things haven’t changed much in her life in these years. Her friend Celia finally divorced her husband to start a life with her lover, which has caused an uproar in the English society. Kate, Celia’s older daughter and Evelyn’s goddaughter, stays with Evelyn for a week, and the woman can tell she is going through a terrible time. When she sees Kate off at the train station, she runs into Hugo Longville, who is an acquaintance, and they enjoy some conversation over tea. Later when she returns home and her husband hardly registers her presence, she realises that she has never had a proper conversation with Osborne just like she has done with Hugo. I have the feeling that here is the seed for something that might grow into friendship or maybe something else.


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