A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

Having loved Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, a book that made my end of year highlights in December, I was keen to try another of her novels. A View of the Harbour was a possibility, but in the end I plumped for A Game of Hide and Seek – both of these books appear on my Classics Club list, so I know I’ve still got Harbour to look forward to. In the meantime, I’m very glad to have picked this one to read – it delivered on every level for me.

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First published in 1951, A Game of Hide and Seek is a very poignant story of life’s disappointments, compromises and lost loves. As the novel opens, eighteen-year-old Vesey is spending the summer with his Aunt Caroline and Uncle Hugo at their home in the South of England. Harriet, also aged eighteen, is a frequent visitor to the house and during the long summer’s evenings, she plays hide-and-seek with Vesey and his two young cousins. Both Harriet and Vesey are something of a disappointment to their elders. Harriet shows no signs of fulfilling any of the ambitions or passions of her mother who, together with Caroline, was an active participant in the suffragette movement. Having struggled at school, Harriet now seems content to daydream and pick flowers in the countryside. Vesey, on the other hand, is bright, but somewhat lazy and insensitive. At times, he seems attentive to Harriet, but he can also be spiteful and uncaring. He envisages himself as a writer, a man of letters, and a place at Oxford beckons.

Over the summer months, Harriet falls in love with Vesey; she imagines a life with him, possibly a future defined by marriage and everything this entails. But while Harriet is clearly in love with Vesey, his future intentions remain somewhat unclear.

Vesey, whose next steps would take him over the threshold of a new and promising world, wished to go without any backward glances or entanglements. He was not one to keep up friendships, never threw out fastening tendrils such as letters or presents or remembrances; was quite unencumbered by all the things which Harriet valued and kept: drawers full of photographs, brochures, programmes, postcards, diaries. He never remembered birthdays or any other anniversary. (pg.16)

As the days pass, Hugo and Caroline become increasingly intolerant of Vesey’s behaviour, and it’s not long before they find an excuse to ask him to leave. Fearing that she may have missed her chance with Vesey, Harriet is bereft at his departure. A year seems a long time to wait until the following summer when she hopes to see him again.

With Vesey gone, Harriet finds a job in a gown shop, and in time she meets Charles Jephcott, a man who, at thirty-five, seems old before his time. Charles, a solicitor by profession, is solemn, steady and unexciting, but he is attentive to Harriet and wishes to marry her. When Vesey pays Caroline a brief visit, Harriet’s hopes are revived again only to be dashed when he fails to show at a dance. All seems lost, especially when Harriet’s mother dies unexpectedly. Uncertain of what the future may hold for her, Harriet agrees to marry Charles even though she is still in love with Vesey, a development that brings us to the end of the first part of the novel.

In the second half, we move forward some sixteen or seventeen years – the exact year isn’t clear, but we seem to be in the late 1940s following WW2. Harriet and Charles have been married for several years, and they have a daughter, Betsy, aged fifteen. There is a sense that Harriet has filled her days with domestic duties, managing the household administration and taking care of Betsy. The one thing that’s missing is any feeling of love or passion for Charles.

When she married Charles, she had seemed to wed also a social order. A convert to it, and to provincial life, and keeping house, she had pursued it fanatically and as if she feared censure. […] But now she flouted what she had helped to create – an illusion of society; an oiling of the wheels which went round but not forwards; conventions which could only exist so long as emotion was in abeyance. (pg. 262)

One evening, Vesey comes back into Harriet’s life, and all her old feelings for him are rekindled. Charles watches nervously and with more than a hint of displeasure as Harriet and Vesey dance the tango at a local get-together. As she accompanies her husband home in a taxi, Harriet reflects on the nature of her marriage.

‘Marriage does not solve mysteries,’ she thought. ‘It creates and deepens them.’ The two of them being shut up physically in this dark space, yet locked away for ever from one another, was oppressive. Both were edgy. (pg. 146)

What follows is a series of tentative meetings between Harriet and Vesey; the latter is now a failing actor scraping a living in third-rate productions of Hamlet and the like. Charles knows that his marriage to Harriet is at risk; the idea of Vesey, his image so to speak, has weakened their life together, like a shadow in the background threatening to come to the fore at any moment.

For it was Vesey who had undermined their life together; the idea of him in both their heads. In their few disagreements, he knew to whom her thoughts flew; discouraged, he remembered her girlhood’s inconsolable love, and her silence ever since. Many times, when she had thought of nothing, had simply sat and stared, he believed she thought of him. He had always known that one day he would walk back into their presence as he had done the previous evening, unexpectedly. Harriet had whitened. She had presently bent her head and looked at the floor in front of her, as if disavowing a ghost. Charles could not know that many times before she had thought Vesey coming towards her in the street; her heart leaping, she had scarcely dared to look up at the stranger who eventually went by, usually a man quite unlike Vesey. Seeing one face continually in crowds is one of the minor annoyances of being in love. (pg 178)

A Game of Hide and Seek is a novel full of astute observations on the lives of the middle-classes in England at the time. It is a subtler novel than Mrs Palfrey, one best read slowly to savour Taylor’s pitch-perfect prose and exquisitely-drawn scenes. One of the things I like most about Taylor is the empathy and sympathy she shows for her characters despite their failings. There are no heroes or villains here, just ordinary people trying to make the best of their largely unfulfilled lives.

Harriet and Charles are wonderful creations, credible and believable in their thoughts and actions. I found myself warming to Vesey too as a tenderer, more caring side to his character emerges in the second half of the novel; he clearly illuminates Harriet’s world. The cast of minor characters is equally strong, particularly Charles’ mother, Julia, a dreadful woman who lives with a female companion whom she bullies at every opportunity. She is also highly suspicious of Harriet and relishes the prospect of scandal once Vesey reappears on the scene.

There are touches of sly humour in this novel as well. For instance, there are some terrific scenes at the dress shop where Harriet works before her marriage, a place where the gaggle of shop assistants seem more concerned with trying out the latest beauty treatments than serving customers. Another highlight centres on a drinks evening at the Jephcotts’ when Charles invites Vesey to the house following a performance of the play.

There are some wonderful touches in the portrayal of life in the Jephcotts’ home, too – more specifically, Harriet’s relationship with her cleaning lady, Mrs Curzon, and the observations of the Dutch maid, Elke, who struggles to understand the customs and behaviour of the English middle classes.

Ultimately though, this is Harriet and Vesey’s story. I was left wondering whether Harriet would have been happier if she had spent the last sixteen years with Vesey instead of Charles. (There’s no easy answer to that question, but I suspect she would.) Can the two of them ever recapture the feelings of their youth? And just how far will Harriet go in risking her marriage to Charles? Perhaps I can encourage you to read this beautifully nuanced novel for yourself to discover how things turn out.

For other perspectives on this book, you might want to read these reviews by Caroline (of Beauty and the Cat), Guy and Heavenali. Update: more reviews here by Caroline (of Book word), Jonathan and Melissa.

A Game of Hide and Seek is published by Virago. Source: personal copy.

86 thoughts on “A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Grant was just saying the same thing on Twitter. Taylor was one of my mothers favourite writers, and I suspect that’s why I shied away from reading her for so long. When you’re young, you don’t necessarily want to read the same books as your mother. Oh, how foolish I was back then…

          Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you. Mrs P is the only other Taylor I’ve read too, but I’m sorely tempted to work my way through the whole lot! I’ve got another couple of her novels on my shelves, plus a collection of short stories, so I’m all set.

      Reply
          1. Lady Fancifull

            Well, as I did like Mrs Palfrey I clearly like her voice and way of writing, so I’m unlikely to hate it! The way you (and I also clicked the link to Caroline) described it sounded very appealing. I do like authors who don’t feel the need to bash their readers over the head with things spelt out in big block capitals

            Reply
            1. JacquiWine Post author

              Great – you should be on safe ground then! Yes, ditto on the subtlety. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m starting to veer more towards vintage novels these days. The good ones have survived for a reason.

              Reply
  1. Caroline

    I’m glad you liked this one too.
    I found it subtler than Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont too which doesn’t mean the second is the lesser novel, but it’s easier to like than A Game of Hide and Seek.
    My fist encounter with her was Blaming which has now paled in comparison. Thanks for the link.
    I still got two of her novels on my piles but not The View from the Harbour.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yes, I though it was superb, very subtle and layered. I’m not convinced I’ve done it justice here as there’s a richness to it that I found quite difficult to articulate. As you say, Mrs Palfrey isn’t it a lesser novel – it’s just more direct (or more ‘immediate’) than A Game of Hide and Seek.

      I agree – this one takes a bit of time to unravel. It really got under my skin, though. I read it last year, and if anything it’s grown in my mind in the intervening months. A wonderful writer – thanks for prompting me to read this one!

      Reply
  2. BookerTalk

    My first experience with Taylor was A Wreath of Roses and I did wonder, having got to the end of it, why people raved about her work. But I gave her a second go with Mrs Palfrey and the penny dropped. Hide and Seek is somewhere on my bookshelf and I think I also have The Harbour.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, I recall you saying that you’d found A Wreath of Roses a bit of a disappointment. I don’t have that one, but A View of the Harbour is on my Classics Club list, and I’m pretty hopeful, especially given the reviews I’ve seen. It seems to have garnered a fair amount of praise.

      Mrs Palfrey is a dear, isn’t she? I’m so glad you clicked with her.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Jane. I think you’ve made a wise decision in saving this one. Keep it for a time when you just want to sink into something and savour every detail. It’s so rich and subtle.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: My Reading List for The Classics Club | JacquiWine's Journal

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings

    This was one of my favourite Taylors – her characterisation is so subtle. A View of the Harbour is also wonderful, so you have that to look forward to as well!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one as well. Did you review it by any chance, Karen? I’ll take a look at your blog.

      Yes, yes…very delicate characterisation. It’s the sort of book best read slowly in order to notice all the subtleties, the little looks and gestures that mean so much. I’m looking forward to Harbour – that’ll be my next by Taylor, I think.

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      1. kaggsysbookishramblings

        Alas no – I think I may have read it pre-blog (I began the Ramblings halfway through a year-long read of all the Taylors). But I did cover a fair number of other books of hers so there are reviews to read. Hope you enjoy Harbour!

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          I was just looking through your archive when your comment arrived. Lots to explore there – excellent stuff. Right, I had better make a start on dinner before this evening runs away from me! :)

          Reply
  5. Brian Joseph

    I have not yet read Elizabeth Taylor but I have heard such good things about her books. I want to read her work this year.

    Thoughtful explorations of relationships such as you describe in your commentary are always a source for great stories.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, I hope you do try her, Brian. I’ve seen her described as something akin to the Jane Austin of her period. She’s just so insightful when it comes to observing social situations. I would love to see a review from you, especially given your admiration for authors such as Austen and Trollope. it would be fascinating to see your perspective.

      Reply
  6. madamebibilophile

    I have this and Mrs P on my TBR shelf – do you think I should read Mrs P first? If this is better, maybe its wiser to build up to it? I’m really looking forward to getting to know Elizabeth Taylor this year :-)

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ooh, I think you’ve got a treat in store this year as both of those novels are excellent in their own individual ways. I would suggest that you start with Mrs Palfrey as it’s more immediate than A Game of Hide and Seek, so it’s probably a good one to try first. As Caroline commented above, it’s easier to like than Game, and I think it will give you a good feel for Taylor’s trademark style and skills in characterisation. Game is a richer novel in some respects, and it’s definitely more nuanced than Mrs P, so you might want to save it for a little while. I hope you enjoy!

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yes, I seem to recall you citing Harbour as your favourite of the three. It’s in my sights for later this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how I fare. I have the impression that it might be somewhat similar to Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (which I loved): a close community, a small town setting, acutely observed, etc. Would that be right, or am I totally wide of the mark there?

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      1. Guy Savage

        I liked The Bookshop a lot but I think the Taylor is superior. The Bookshop is a view of small town life, but I think The View of The Harbour is darker. There is one character in particular I’m thinking about.

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          1. JacquiWine Post author

            Thanks, Guy. Well, I’m looking forward to it more than ever now. I like the idea that all three of these novels (Mrs P, Game and Harbour) are somewhat different from one another – it signals a degree of range in Taylor’s work.

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  7. Naomi

    You have convinced me to add Elizabeth Taylor to my list of authors to read – from all the comments it sounds like it would be hard to go wrong with any of her books. Unfortunately, a quick search of the library catalogue tells me that they don’t have any of her books. I’ll have to keep my eye out for them in other places!

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Excellent! She’s certainly a popular author among bloggers, and deservedly so. I think she’s pretty terrific. Good luck in trying to track down one of her books. Maybe you’ll get lucky in a charity shop or book sale – I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. :)

      Reply
  8. Tredynas Days

    You’ve encouraged me to put her on the wish list – I’ve only heard a short story of hers on a podcast, which was terrific, so I look forward to the novels.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Hurrah! That’s really good to hear, Simon. From what I know of your tastes, I think you’ll almost certainly enjoy her novels. Looking forward to seeing what you think. I have a volume of her short stories to look forward to, a lovely collection published by NYRB.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Ali! That means a lot coming from you as I know how much you love her work. Which are your other favourites? I have A View of the Harbour (which I’m thinking of reading as my next Taylor), plus Angel. I’d be very interested to know if there are any others in particular you would recommend.

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      1. heavenali

        Angel is very good, having read it wide I liked it much more the second time (very different -it’s historical) but my favourites are At Mrs Lippincotes, In a Summer Season, A View of the Harbour and The Soul of Kindness. All worth reading and her short stories are wonderful – I haven’t read all the short stories yet.

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        1. JacquiWine Post author

          That’s excellent, thanks! I’m making a note of these. At Mrs Lippincotes is beginning to sound essential as a couple of other fans of Taylor have already mentioned it me…and it was her first novel. I can see a few potential purchases ahead of me. :)

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  9. Caroline (Bookword)

    I enjoyed your review . I enjoyed a Game of Hide and Seek. I have enjoyed every one of Elizabeth Taylor’s novels and reviewed them all on my blog, in order, over a year ago. She is one of the underestimated novelists of the 20th century I think. She has insight and nuance in her writing and her plots are varied. Read on! Caroline

    Reply
  10. Caroline (Bookword)

    Oh, and noticing a comment about her short stories, I have the complete collection by my bedside. I recently read a beautiful story about a young woman, ‘kept’ as they used to say, who saw everything differently when her home flooded. Topical.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Caroline. Wonderful – I hadn’t realised that you’ve reviewed them all! I must take a look at your archive when I have a spare hour or so. Do you have any particular favourites or recommendations? I have A View of the Harbour and Angel but am always open to suggestions.

      Oh, and I have a collection of her stories as well. Not the Complete set from VMC, but an NYRB collection: You’ll Enjoy It When You Get There. I’m now wondering whether the story you’ve mentioned is included in my edition…as you say, very topical.

      Reply
      1. Caroline

        Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont has topped the reading for older women in fiction series, perhaps because it was one of the first. I think it is a beautiful study of older people, and neglect. Gentle and respectful.
        I am also very fond of In a Summer Season, because she takes the idea of limited time to explore some very different relationships.
        The Thames Spread Out is the name of the story I mentipned, about flooding. Her storioes are jewels or nuggets of pleasure. Many were published in the New Yorker. Some feel like a writer’s exercise, but none the worse for that.
        Happy reading to all those just discovering Elizabeth Taylor.
        And btw Nicola Beauman wrote a good biography. Some surprises for readers who think ET is rather twee and midle class.
        Thanks for the link to my blog.
        Caroline

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          That’s interesting. Even though I’d read Mrs P back in January, I ended up picking it for my book group when my turn came around in December. It gave rise to a good discussion, particularly on nature of the relationships between the various residents of the Claremont. They were all very proud, intent on maintaining a degree of independence when in fact they could have been a great source of comfort and support for one another. I agree with your description of it being a gentle and respectful novel – Taylor handles it with great sensitivity.

          I’m glad you’ve mentioned In a Summer Season as well as it does sound excellent. Definitely one for my wishlist. Thank you. Oh, and thanks also for mentioning the title of that short story. I hope it’s included in the NYRB edition…I’ll have to dig it out a little later and take a look. The bio sounds great as well – I would like to read about Taylor’s life at some point, perhaps once I’ve read another couple of her novels.

          Many thanks for dropping back with your recommendations and additional comments, Caroline – and you’re very welcome re the link, always happy to include these.

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  11. Jonathan

    I’ve also read Mrs Palfrey & Hide and Seek. I preferred Mrs P but Hide and Seek was certainly enjoyable. I found the minor characters stole the show for me as I found Harriet and Vesey rather boring. I couldn’t see what they found to like, yet alone love, in each other.

    I’ve seen the film of ‘Angel’ which I liked and will probably read some short stories next.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, it’s good to hear another perspective as it makes things interesting! Did you review it, Jonathan? I really liked the secondary characters as well, especially Harriet’s mother-in-law (Taylor had her down pat) and Elke, the maid. Loved the scenes in the gown shop, too – in fact, I’d marked up a wonderful quote from that section but couldn’t quite find space for it in the final edit without the review feeling too long.

      I think I can see what you mean about it being difficult to see what Harriet and Vesey found to like in one another. Vesey, in particular, was pretty unlikeable, especially in his youth. I guess Vesey was Harriet’s fist love. I got the impression that she worshiped him from a young age, even though he could be quite insensitive towards her. It was only later, once he had come back into Harriet’s life, that I really warmed to Vesey. Perhaps it was only then that he realised what he’d thrown away all those years ago…

      Reply
      1. Jonathan

        I reviewed them together last year. I read them quite close together.

        I agree that Vesey became a more interesting character by the end of the novel, especially once he’d been bashed about a bit by life. ‘Hide and Seek’ was one of those books that I appreciated more once I’d finished it. Writing my post forced me to revisit it which I found useful.

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          So you did…I recall seeing it now. I must have homed in on your commentary about Mrs Palfrey! Apologies for that, Jonathan – I’ve just added a link to yours to the ‘other reviews’ section of my piece.

          Yes, A Game of Hide and Seek grew in my mind too as the weeks passed. I read it towards the end of last year, but what with Christmas and the holidays it’s taken me a quite a while to write up. No bad thing really as it definitely matured with reflection.

          Reply
  12. Melissa Beck

    The ladies at the shop are very funny indeed. I like your observation that Taylor’s books don’t have any heroes or bad people, just ordinary mean and women dealing with everyday struggles.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Aren’t they just! Thanks – I think Taylor seems to bring a real depth of insight on life’s disappointments to her writing. It made me wonder how much of this might have been inspired by events in her own life (or in the lives of her friends and family…other people she may have observed along the way).

      Reply
  13. Annabel (gaskella)

    Great review! I have this one on the shelf. I’ve read Mrs Palfrey and In a Summer Season, both of which I loved. In a Summer Season was writ with a scalpel, about a ‘Cougar’ essentially – loved it.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you, Annabel. The more I hear about In a Summer Season, the better it gets – you’re the third person to recommend it! I can see where the remainder of my Christmas token is heading…

      Reply
  14. Bellezza

    Every time I see this author’s name on your blog, I think of the actress. It’s ridiculous! I should really get to know the writer, instead, especially after reading your praise.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      She’s fab, and I really think you would like her. Take a look at Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont as it’s a good one to try to get a feel for her style. I often wonder whether Taylor would have enjoyed more success had she not shared her name with such an iconic actress. I suspect it didn’t do her any favours at the time. Even though she’s been enjoying a bit of a revival of late (particularly across the blogosphere), I think she’s still hugely underrated.

      Reply
  15. Claire 'Word by Word'

    I haven’t read Elizabeth Taylor, but this sounds like an appealing entry and interesting given that marriage is something of a theme in novels lately, I recently read the much lauded ( perhaps because Barack Obama made it his book of the year 2015) Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and was a little disappointed, I think perhaps it was meant to be symbolic of the separate universes within which individuals in a couple often operate, as if complete strangers to each others, however, the characters for me, we’re not credible or believable, thus it becomes harder to absorb the insights it is supposed to be bringing forth.

    A lovely review Jacqui, thank you.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      In some respects, reflections on a marriage might, at least at first sight, seem like such a well-worn theme that one wonders if there is anything new to say about the subject or a different angle left to explore. The thing that struck me about this novel was the depth of feeling Taylor brings to the characterisation – I really felt as though I was walking alongside Harriet, living her life and all the disappointments and compromises along the way.

      Shame about the Groff as I’ve noticed quite a buzz about it recently. (You’ve probably seen it but if not, I’m fairly sure Eric at Lonesome Reader reviewed it a few weeks ago.) Lack of belief in the characters can be a real problem, I agree. It’s funny, I’ve moved away from reading a lot of contemporary fiction over the last year after being a bit disappointment by some of the ‘buzz books’ I’d read. I just felt somewhat unsatisfied or unfulfilled by them, partly as a result of the kind of issue you’ve mentioned.

      Reply
      1. Claire 'Word by Word'

        That’s interesting and mirrors my experience, as I realise that few of the shiny new things make it onto my favourites and so I tend to follow my own leads and inclinations rather than be seduced by the latest. I think what I read is still contemporary, with a few exceptions of authors I really wanted to read like Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecroft, Elizabeth von Arnim etc.

        And that feeling of fulfimment as you say, is so important, that anticipating we might achieve in through our selections becomes very important.

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that I spotted a copy of Elizabeth von Arnim’s ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ in a secondhand bookshop last week (and in pretty good nick too). At £4.50 for that and William Trevor’s Love and Summer, I snapped them up! Thanks so much for that recommendation, Claire – even though I’ve yet to read The Enchanted April, I’m pretty confident that I’ll take to von Arnim.

          Reply
  16. litlove

    I am always so delighted when you review a book I possess on my shelves and have yet to read! It’s excellent news that you loved this. I confess that In A Summer Season which I read last year didn’t fall as well with me as Elizabeth Taylor usually does. But it must be the exception that proves the rule because I’ve loved everything else. Glad to know I can look forward to this one. Lovely review!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yay! And there was I thinking you’d already read all of Taylor’s novels. Well, I do hope you enjoy this one – I’d love to hear how you think it compares with her others. It’s still early days for me, but I thought this was more nuanced than Mrs Palfrey – a richer novel in some respects, especially in the number of themes Taylor explores here.

      Interesting comments on In a Summer Season. I’m beginning to wonder if Elizabeth Taylor’s novels are a little like Penelope Fitzgerald’s in that everyone seems to have a slightly different selection of favourites. I’m veering towards A View in the Harbour as my next one, especially given that I already own a copy.

      Reply
      1. litlove

        I loved A View of the Harbour – but I think you’re quite right and that she is a lot like Penelope Fitzgerald (another author I love) for whom I have exactly the sort of selection of favourites you describe!

        Reply
  17. poppypeacockpens

    What a great review that promises not just a great read but an author certainly worth exploring. .. I’ve Mrs Palfrey on the TBR (possibly others) & will look out for this one too if I don’t find it among the bookcases that are to be perused & reshuffled for this year’s reading😊

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      She’s pretty terrific, Poppy. I wish I’d started reading her years ago. Mrs Palfrey’s probably a good place to start with Taylor, so I hope you enjoy it. Plenty more to look forward to if you do. :)

      Reply
  18. 1streading

    Interesting to read about this after Mrs Dalloway which also features a possible love rejected. I’m hoping to get round to all of Elizabeth Taylor’s books eventually!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, yes..interesting comparison. As for the remainder of Taylor’s novels, I’m hoping to join you in that endeavour! A View of the Harbour next, I think.

      Reply
  19. Max Cairnduff

    It sounds excellent. I have Mrs Palfrey now so will read that first, but assuming I like that (and it sounds like it’ll be quite a surprise if I don’t) then this will definitely move onto the tbr list.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I’m fairly confident you’ll take to Mrs Palfrey, Max – she’s quite a darling. It’s good to see quite a few men and women reading Elizabeth Taylor these days as I suspect she fell out of fashion during the 1970s and ’80s. I do wish Virago would revert to their classic green livery, though – some of those Modern Classics covers don’t do her novels any favours at all, Mrs P being a case in point!

      Reply
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  21. Violet

    Taylor was a wonderful writer. I read this a while ago and it’s so beautifully observed. I have a bio of her on the shelf that I need to get around to. I remember feeling quite frustrated with Harriet because she was so passive – I wish she’d ‘made’ things happen, but that wouldn’t have been in keeping with the times. I don’t think she’d have been happier with Vesey, but the grass is always greener and first love is the most powerful, perhaps. I agree with you about the covers of Taylor’s novels, they really do need more appropriate artwork.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, I’m really glad you enjoyed this novel too. Yes, Taylor’s observations are so insightful, and yet she handles everything with great delicacy and subtlety, it never feels heavy-handed in any way. I know what you mean about Harriet’s passivity. She could have been more direct with Vesey, especially when they were exploring the old house…but, as you say it wasn’t necessarily the done thing in those days (and I think Harriet’s shy personality held her back, too). You’re probably right in saying that she wouldn’t have been happier with Vesey as their relationship may not have lasted for long. I guess I just wanted her to have had the chance to experience a little more of life before settling down with someone. Maybe she would have gone on to meet someone other than Charles, someone she could have found true happiness with.

      Reply
  22. Scott W

    This one’s definitely high on my priority list. As you know, I’ve liked immensely the other Taylor works I’ve read (especially Mrs. Palfrey, thanks to you!).

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Great news. Mrs Palfrey went down well with my book group in December, so she hasn’t let me down yet! A Game of Hide and Seek is rather different (and different again from Angel) so I’ll be curious to see what you make of it should you decide to give it a whirl. Taylor’s definitely one of my new favourite writers – I’d like to read another of her novels later this year.

      Reply
  23. Séamus Duggan

    I’m pretty sure that this is the Taylor I have (somewhere, hidden) on my shelves and am definitely going to read my first book by her this year. I bought it after reading your post on her last year. Good to see that your second experience of her books was as good as your first.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, excellent. I’m really glad to hear that you’re going to give Taylor a try – it’ll be interesting to see how you take to her. I think this novel is less ‘immediate’ (or less direct) than Mrs Palfrey. It’s quite understated, one to read slowly to fully appreciate all the subtleties in the characterisation. I hope you like it (and if not, don’t disregard her – Mrs Palfrey is a real gem!)

      Reply
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