In Angel, Elizabeth Taylor’s seventh novel, the author puts Angelica Deverell under her high-intensity microscope. At the tender age of 15, Angel decides she wants to be a writer. Her writing is sub-par, and the resulting books are trashy, but while the critics are universally negative her work appeals to a certain clientele. Angel comes into money and fame before she is mature enough to handle it, and this fosters an unbelievable arrogance. Angel accepts feedback from no one, not even her publisher or her mother.
Angel uses people to achieve her own ends, and when she’s done with them, she’s well and truly done. Although her aunt Lottie paid for her schooling, Angel completely rejects her and will not allow Lottie in her home, even to visit her sister (Angel’s mother). As a young woman, Angel befriends Nora Howe-Nevinson and her brother Esmé, niece and nephew of the wealthy Lord Norley. She takes Nora’s loyalty for granted (what with being a famous writer celebrity and all), and uses her to get to Esmé. Needless to say, Angel is not a likeable character. Fortunately, Angel’s behavior has a down side. As Angel goes through middle and old age, her arrogance is undiminished but her life becomes increasingly lonely and pathetic.
This book is more bleak than Elizabeth Taylor’s earlier novels. And yet, it’s also full of what Taylor does so well: economic phrases that brilliantly capture the essence of a character or setting. While this wasn’t my favorite Taylor novel, it was a well-written character study that held my interest to the end.