A while back I mentioned my plan to honor the author Elizabeth Taylor in 2012. Things are falling nicely into place, with several members of the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics Group ready to celebrate with me. We’ve chosen our reads for the first quarter, and funny enough, they are Taylor’s first three novels.
As it happens, I’ve read them already! But I’m looking forward to revisiting these early novels and joining in the LibraryThing discussion. Care to join us? Allow me to tempt you with more about each book, including the description transcribed from Virago Modern Classic editions, and links to my reviews.
“When he had married Julia, he had thought her woefully ignorant of the world; had looked forward, indeed, to assisting in her development. But she had been grown up all the time; or, at least, she had not changed”
Mrs. Lippincote’s house, with its mahogany furniture and yellowing photographs, stands as a reminder of the earlier securities. This is to be the temporary home of Julia, who has joined her husband Roddy at the RAF’s behest; of their young son Oliver, and Eleanor, Roddy’s cousin. Here Julia must be mother and above all, officer’s wife, for Roddy, that “leader of men”, requires that she fulfil her role impeccably. Julia accepts the pomposities of service life, but her honesty and sense of humour prevent her from taking her role too seriously. And in her easy friendship with the Wing Commander and her allegiance with the raffish Mr. Taylor, Julia expresses a sensitivity unknown to those closest to her. Others may chafe at Julia’s behaviour, but it is they – not she- who practise hypocrisy.
Young Cassandra is alone in the world, her father had just died. When she goes to Cropthorne Manor as a governess, its weary facade and crumbling statues are all that she could hope for. And Marion Vanbrugh is the perfect employer – a widower, austere and distant, with a penchant for Greek. But this is not a ninteenth-century novel and Cassandra’s Mr. Rochester isn’t the only inhabitant of the Manor. There’s Tom, irascible and discontented, Margaret, pregnant and voracious, the ineffectual Tinty and the eccentric, domineering Nanny. Just as Jane Austen wittily contrasted real life with a girl’s Gothic fantasies in Northhanger Abbey, so Elizabeth Taylor subtly examines the realities of life for a latter-day Jane Eyre in this sharply observed work, first published in 1946.
“Are we to go on until we are old, with just these odd movements here and there and danger always so narrowly evaded? Love draining away our vitality, our hold on life, never adding anything to us?” Passions intrudes into the dull, predictable world of a faded coastal resort when Tory, recently divorced, begins an affair with her neighbor Robert, the local doctor. His wife Beth, Tory’s best friend, writes successful and melodramatic novels, oblivious to household chores and the relationship developing next door. But their daughter Prudence is aware and appalled by Robert and Tory’s treachery. The resolution of these painful matters is conveyed with wit and compassion, as are the restricted lives of other characters: the refreshingly coarse Mrs. Bracey, the young widow Lily Wilson and the self-deceiving Bertram. In this enchanting and devastatingly well-observed novel, first published in 1947, Elizabeth Taylor again draws an unforgettable picture of love, loss, and the keeping up of appearances.
I’ll be reporting in on our book chat here, but the best way to get involved is to join the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics Group You’ll also meet a whole bunch of wonderful people! What have you got to lose?
I hope to “see” you in January!