Review: Blaming, by Elizabeth Taylor

Amy and Nick are an average couple, happily married for years and looking forward to spending their later years together.  Unexpectedly, while on holiday, tragedy strikes and leaves Amy a widow.  Paralyzed by grief and confusion, Amy accepts help and support from Martha, another member of their holiday touring party.  Martha is an odd duck, someone Amy would never have befriended otherwise.  But after returning home she feels indebted to her, and Martha becomes a regular visitor in Amy’s home. Martha helps fill otherwise long and lonely days, and slowly Amy begins rebuilding her life.

Amy’s son James and his wife Maggie repeatedly extend invitations to visit, but Amy is proud and doesn’t want to intrude (and, to be fair, James and Maggie have invited Amy more from a sense of duty than anything else).  Amy’s housekeeper / cook, Ernie Pounce, tries to please her through his efficient service, better-than-average culinary abilities, and fond memories of Nick.  And Gareth, her physician and long-time family friend, drops by often just to chat or have a meal.  But Martha makes herself such a presence in Amy’s life, that Amy is oblivious to care offered by relatives and close friends.   And yet, when Martha most needs Amy’s help and support, Amy fails her.

Blaming was Taylor’s last novel, published just months before her death.  It is a quiet, sad book, perhaps reflecting Taylor’s own mood at the time, since she knew she was dying of cancer.  It is moving in her typically understated way, and yet she also unleashed her brilliant wit in portrayals of Ernie, and Amy’s two grandchildren, lightening the mood at just the right moments. While Blaming is not as strong as some of Taylor’s early and mid-career novels, it is a fitting conclusion to her work.

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9 thoughts on “Review: Blaming, by Elizabeth Taylor

  1. I’m going to have to pick up some of the writer Elizabeth Taylor’s work at some point in 2013! Amy and Nick was the couple also used in Gone Girl. I wonder if Gillian Flynn had read Elizabeth Taylor’s novel recently and had some name inspiration!

    • Rebecca, I knew you’d pick up on the characters’ names! Even though it’s been nearly 6 months since I read Gone Girl, I had to whack myself on the side of the head more than once. Taylor’s characters are not at all like Flynn’s but I kept waiting for something ‘evil’ to happen!

  2. I really enjoyed this book, Laura, but knowing that she was so ill made it all very bittersweet for me. It’s been a while since I read Blaming but will try to find my review and attach it to your Mr Linky.

    Thank you so much, once again, for all of your efforts in bringing everyone together for this project!

    • You’re right Darlene, it is a bittersweet book. Have you read the biography? Because she was also mourning a friend who committed suicide … makes it all even sadder.

  3. Not feeling well, I took Blaming to bed with me night before last where I read and dozed, read and dozed for twelve hours whereupon I had completed the book. As of this moment Blaming is my very favorite of Elizabeth Taylor’s works. I know this will change with the next one but I was very much taken with this story.
    This story is about a British couple, Amy and Nick, on vacation touring Istanbul whereupon they come in contact with an American woman, Martha, who seems very needy for English speaking companionship. She leeches onto the them and where they go, she goes as well. As it happens, Nick has an episode and passes away on the trip and Martha is there for Amy all along the way. She gives up the remainder of her holiday to support and be there for Amy whether Amy desires her companionship or not. Turns out she really doesn’t but there she is.
    When they get back to London Martha continues the contact and ‘friendship’ with Amy. Amy has long since tired of Martha’s company but what does one do and stay within the realm of propriety? Why one soldiers on.
    The story felt so real and all of the characters were so easy to identify with and to understand their personalities and eccentricities. I felt as though I was the one walking into Amy’s home or into Martha’s bedsitter. I especially loved the character of Ernie, Amy’s houseman. I found him to be just a lovely man and want an Ernie of my own.
    “So Martha came and went in Laurel Walk, rather taken for granted than welcomed. On winter afternoons, she and Amy would walk beside the river while the slimy mudbanks became rosy in the setting sun and gulls collected on them, squabbling; or the water ran by , carrying scum, at full tide.”
    Can you see it? Can you feel it? I could.
    “What is it tonight…what are you talking about?” Amy asked, having learned that she must ask questions.”
    Loved that bit.
    I found the ending to be rather bittersweet and was not expecting it to occur in that manner nor perhaps even with that character. One thing I admire so much in Elizabeth Taylor is that she does not feel the need to tidy up all ends nor to end each storyline. With her books as in life the characters go on to live their lives with the imperfections and blemishes that are on all of our lives.
    Blaming was a five star read for me and I don’t quite know how to pick up another book after this one. I very highly recommend this one.

  4. Despite the fact that you’ve all been reading Elizabeth Taylor since January, and I’ve been looking at what people have to say, I’ve only just got around to her (read and reviewed ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont’), and loved the way she portrays so much about a character in so few words. I feel as if I’ve missed out by not reading her before, but I am looking forward to reading her other books.

    • Mrs Palfrey is a great place to start, Christine — it was my first Taylor as well. I am glad the centenary year served to introduce you to her and inspire you to read more 🙂

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