The Sunday Salon: Elizabeth Taylor January Wrap-up

The 2012 Elizabeth Taylor Centenary is in full swing!  LibraryThing members have been reading Taylor’s first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, and the Virago Modern Classics Readers Facebook page has attracted over 65 “likes” in 3 weeks.  Things are also shaping up nicely to extend events beyond LibraryThing and Facebook, into the literary blog community.  Whichever platform you prefer, there’s an Elizabeth Taylor birthday party waiting for you!

I’m really excited about the support received from fellow bloggers.  Thank you!!   Bloggers are lined up to host monthly reads for all but a few months of the year.  Here’s the reading list, with hosts as of today (pssst … click here if you’d like to sign up!):

  1. At Mrs. Lippincote’s (1945)
  2. Palladian (1946) – hosted by Rachel @ Booksnob
  3. A View of the Harbour (1947) – hosted by Simon @ Stuck In a Book
  4. A Wreath of Roses (1949) – hosted by FleurFisher
  5. A Game of Hide and Seek (1951) – hosted by BuriedinPrint
  6. The Sleeping Beauty (1953) – hosted by Laura @ Musings
  7. Angel (1957) – hosted by Alex @ Luvvie’s Musings
  8. In a Summer Season (1961)
  9. The Soul of Kindness (1964) – hosted by Heaven-Ali
  10. The Wedding Group (1968) – hosted by Harriet Devine’s Blog
  11. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (1971) – hosted by Verity @ Verity’s Virago Venture
  12. Blaming (1976)

There are several reviews of this month’s book, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, available via the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary page on this blog.  The book also generated lively discussion in the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics Group.  We loved this bookish quote about Oliver, a boy in the novel:

Oliver Davenant did not merely read books. He snuffed them up, took breaths of them into his lungs, filled his eyes with the sight of the print and his head with the sound of words. Some emanation from the book itself poured into his bones, as if he were absorbing steady sunshine. The pages had personality.

In The Other Elizabeth Taylor, biographer Nicola Beauman tells us Oliver’s character was based on a boy Elizabeth taught in 1930:

The precociousness was true to life, but Oliver Knox was a grave, self-contained good humoured little boy whom Betty enjoyed being with very much and who, like his namesake in At Mrs Lippincote’s, was always charmingly irreverent, always conscious of the absurd but serious au fond (‘he always said he woudl be a judge when he grew up, & I always felt he was practising on me,’ Elizabeth would write).

Most members enjoyed the book; below are some excerpts from our book chat:

  • A beautifully written novel. Elizabeth Taylor’s amazing attention to detail in her depiction of the minutiae of everyday family life brings her characters and their world to life.
  • It’s such a clever portrait of a marriage and those surrounding it, so perceptive and witty about people, all that I love about Taylor.
  • Taylor writes incredible descriptions and wonderfully precocious children. It’s a really naturalistic, “slice-of-life” novel that see-saws from the humorous to the cynical.
  • I am enjoying the evocation of times passed and finding it is making me philosophical and reflective about life styles and changing times. … Elizabeth Taylor writes about the brown satchel in which he kept his payments – I can see it in my mind’s eye right now!  This vignette led me to reflect upon our understanding of the period details in this delightful book. I find myself having to re-read every now and then to realise the full meaning of a description.

But not everyone liked it, some found the characters shallow and the plot too slow.  And some picked up on very fine details:

Did anyone notice how often wasps appeared in the book—usually to be killed or at least swatted at? In the first instance, Roddy kills one, and Julia protests. … Wasps suggest industriousness, organization, perhaps community? … In the second instance, several wasps come to swarm around a dish of apples, and Roddy first “swish{ed} about with his table napkin” and then “gave a smart clap now and then” which caused an occasional wasp to drop stunned to the carpet. Still not sure what to make of these vignettes, but my inner Literary Reader says they aren’t in there accidentally.

It was a lot of fun, and there’s more to come next month.  Rachel, our February host, wrote this week about how she discovered Elizabeth Taylor. And Buried in Print served up loads of insights on At Mrs Lippincote’s and generally waxed effusive about this fine author.

Be sure to visit Booksnob next month to chat about Palladian!


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10 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Elizabeth Taylor January Wrap-up

  1. I’ll admit it. My first thought was “Elizabeth Taylor? Movie star AND novelist? Surely not…” Oops! Well you learn something new every day, right? Although I don’t have the ability to commit to any challenges right now, I have “Liked” the Virago Modern classics page on Facebook – thanks for the heads up! 🙂

    • Kath, I thought the same thing when I first heard of her! Thanks for “liking” the page, and I hope you have the chance to discover both Elizabeth Taylor, the author, and Virago Modern Classics.

  2. Thanks for orchestrating this celebration of her work, Laura, and for the incentive to re-read her first novel; I liked it quite well the first time that I read it, but I was so impressed with it this time that, in some ways, it felt like a completely different novel.

  3. What a lovely initiative this is. I will be following along from the sidelines.

    I have not read any novel by Elizabeth Taylor yet, but I do plan to at least read A Game of HIde and Seek this year.

    • Iris, I hope you can read A Game of Hide and Seek during May with our read-along. And perhaps it will inspire you to read more of Taylor’s work!

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