Saturday, 26 September 2009

Taylor and Howard

The hydrangea by the front door faded through innumerable shades of blue.

There are some similarities between Elizabeth Taylor's A Game of Hide and Seek and Elizabeth Jane Howard's Love All. Both feature upper middle-class families who live in a kind of genteel poverty, both have characters who are fond of reading Jane Austen and both examine the hopelessness of unrequited love.

In A Game of Hide and Seek, Harriet falls in love with Vesey one summer when she is just eighteen. She continues to love him when she goes to work in a department store, meets the wealthy but dull Charles, marries him and has a daughter. Flippant and overconfident, Vesey is seemingly uninterested in Harriet and his life spirals downward. He is expelled from Oxford and becomes a poverty stricken actor. He and Harriet meet again in middle age and try to re-ignite their relationship. I was less interested in the strange relationship between Vesey and Harriet than the minor characters in this novel - Harriet's wonderful mother who went to prison for women's rights and Julia, the mother of Charles, a former actress who retains her theatrical affectations well into old age.

The focus in Love All switches between different characters, but my favourites were Persephone Plover - known as Percy - who is abandoned by her parents and bought up by her Aunt Floy and her beloved black cat, Marvell. When Aunt Floy, who designs gardens, is commissioned to restore the gardens of a country house Persephone goes with her and takes on the organisation of an arts festival in the village. There she receives two proposals of marriage and accepts neither! At 450 pages this novel briefly flagged a little for me about half-way through and then I got interested again and read straight through to the end.


Anonymous said...

Oh, A Game of Hide and Seek is going on my to-be-read list immediately. And what a lovely photo, too!

Parthenope said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed 'Love all'.EJH is one of my favourite novelists, and I've been reading her since the '70s. Most people seem to love the Cazalet series, but I think 'Falling',which is much darker is her best. Have just discovered your delightful blog - we seem to like the same kind of books. Elizabeth Taylor is another favourite of mine. Looking forward with great pleasure to reading more - posts and novels !

Vintage Reading said...

Hi Parthenope, thanks for dropping by. Yes, I need to read more EJH. I'll put Falling on my Christmas wishlist!