Clara’s own family is distant and joyless. Her father dies, and we are told: “Mr Maugham had provided for his family with a thoroughness that bordered upon the reckless – in so far as a man may squander upon insurance, he had done so.”
In London, Clara finds a friend named Clelia (not a typo) at a poetry reading. She is entranced:
She liked the cosy way they all seemed to assume that the evening was a wash-out, inevitably, and that he whole job of writing and reading poetry was somehow fundamentally ill-conceived. And yet, at the same time, they wanted to think they had done it well The mixture of general cynicism and personal vanity was peculiarly appealing . .Margaret Drabble was an actress for a time, and you can entirely tell. This is a painfully accurate description of many a night I’ve spent in small theatres.
She falls in love with Clelia, and Clelia’s wealthy family, and more specifically with Clelia’s married brother. It’s more a learning curve than a real romance, and ends predictably in half-hearted tears. No doubt this is most accurate, with many University romances being more about finding yourself than finding someone else; but still I found it all rather a let down. I’m sure there are better uses to be made of your scholarship.