Midweek @ Musings: March Readalong – Elizabeth Taylor’s “A View of the Harbour”


Our 2012 Elizabeth Taylor Centenary continues in March with Taylor’s third novel, A View of the Harbour. Last month we read Palladian, and Rachel led a wonderful discussion.

Simon @ Stuck-in-a-Book is hosting this month’s readalong.  If you’ve reviewed the book, be sure to share it via the “Mr. Linky” on my Elizabeth Taylor Centenary page.

The description on the novel’s back cover reads:

“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.

A View of the Harbour began as an unpublished book titled Never and Always.  They are two distinctly different works, but share many characters and situations.  By this time her work was gaining critical acclaim in Britain and Knopf, Taylor’s American publisher, was very enthusiastic about the book.

I read A View of the Harbour in 2008, and gave it 4.5 stars.  The experience landed Taylor on my “favorite authors” list, because of her unique ability to bring minute observation to life:

A View of the Harbour focuses on the day-to-day events and relationships of the community. Like any small town, people spend a lot of time watching one another and gossiping. Characters are presented first at a distance, as viewed through a window by a neighbor. But Taylor also transitions seamlessly to first-hand accounts of each character, bringing detail, depth and emotion to each situation. Many events play out through the perspective of Bertram, a visitor who has supposedly come to paint the scenery, but manages to insert himself into the lives of several community members. As he becomes acquainted with various people, so does the reader.

Simon has already given us a little preview, and promises to return around 26 March to open a discussion.  Once you’ve read the book, be sure to link to your review here.  Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: March Readalong – Elizabeth Taylor’s “A View of the Harbour”

  1. I just finished Palladian on the weekend, but yup, I’m planning to re-read this one as well. (Though I’m particularly excited about getting to the Taylor novels that I haven’t read, which April will satisfy!) Loving ET’s year so far: you?

    • Oh yes BIP, I’m enjoying the centenary. I haven’t actually re-read the first 3 books but have enjoyed reconnecting through the conversation. In April I will actually read the book!

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