Saturday, 27 August 2011


I have a bit of a chequered history with Elizabeth Taylor novels. I found Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont to be an utterly depressing portrayal of ageing and I've often found an underlying unpleasantness in Taylor's characters, yet I loved Blaming.

Palladian is a variation of Jane Eyre with orphaned Cassandra Dashwood going to work as a governess in a ramshackle mansion house with a romantic idea that she will fall in love with her widower employer and indeed she does. The mansion is populated with her employer's bossy sister, hypochondriac mother, brother with a drink problem, the girl he believes to be his daughter and a know-it-all Nanny who bullies the cleaner. The dialogue between Nanny and the cleaner is highly amusing and cleverly written but I found the rest of the novel pretty bleak.

I'd like to read the Beauman biography because I'm always interested in the life of writers but I think I'm done with Taylor's novels.

On a more positive note I popped into the lovely Foyles bookshop at St Pancras station last week and found a biography I've wanted to read for a long time -clue is my author of the month. I also managed to resist the temptation presented by the Cath Kidston shop next door!


Sunday Taylor said...

I first learned of Dodie Smith from "Victoria" magazine many years ago. It was when her book "I Capture the Castle" was rereleased. I would love to read her biography since I loved her book. And regarding Elizabeth Taylor, you really gave her a chance. From what you described, I have a feeling I would have the same reaction.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you've found Taylor so bleak. Her writing does have some unpleasant undertones, I agree, but somehow I manage to enjoy her nonetheless. The first of hers I read was Angel, and despite the main character being odious, I found it a very interesting reading experience. I can't quite put my finger on why...I'm keen to read the Nicola Beauman biog too. I'm intrigued by your mention of the Dodie Smith biography...please post about it soon!

Anonymous said...

I think I feel the same way about Taylor. I've bought both Angel and A Game of Hide and Seek, have read about 50 pgs. and abandoned them. I find her writing to be inaccessible, but I can't pinpoint why.

Darlene said...

Sorry to hear that your last experience with Taylor didn't quite cut it for you, Nicola. I really hope you read Beauman's bio though and find your way back at some point!

Lilacs In May said...

Sounds like a good read. Will add to my tbr - and off to watch Jane Eyre now!

Karen K. said...

I've only read Mrs. Paltrey, which I loved (thought I had first seen the movie version, loved Joan Plowright). I just checked my library catalog and they have this one, so I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

Mae said...

I have three of her books but have yet to read any of them (how on earth did I end up with 3?!). I wasn't expecting her to be bleak, more like a gentle portrayal on family life, I suppose. Like Dorothy Whipple.

StuckInABook said...

Of the three ETs I've read, Angel is my favourite - but quite bleak, certainly! I do love her writing, but have to wait for it to 'click' with me each time.

And I'm guessing it's Valerie Grove's Dear Dodie? I read it back in 2003 or 2004, and found it really interesting and quite surprising.

Dorothy W. said...

I've read two Taylor novels now and liked them very much, but I can see that the bleakness might get old. I'll have to make sure I try Blaming at some point, since you liked it so much!

Penny said...

A biography of Dodie Smith sounds interesting!

I know what you mean about Elizabeth Taylor... I enjoy her books, but have to be in a sturdy frame of mind! I felt the same about Anita Brookner's books, before I decided to call a halt, but I have so many of ET's books waiting to be read, that I couldn't stop now!

Vintage Reading said...

Sunday, I've just finished the Dodi Smith biography and would highly recommend it.

booksnob, yes, I find it difficult to post negative reviews but I suppose its best to be honest. I think Taylor is just not my cup of tea!

gudrunstights, glad I'm not the only one! I know Taylor is widely admired but she just doesn't speak to me.

Darlene, I'm in the mood for biography at the moment so I do want the Beauman book. I've also had an Elizabeth Gaskell biog on my shelves for ages which I must get around to!

Lilac's in May - is that the new Jane Eyre film? Do post a review.

Karen K, The only Taylor I really loved was Blaming. Hope you get on with Palladian better than I did!

Mae, don't let me put you off if you've not read her. I do like Whipple, though!

StuckinaBook, I agree with what you say about the click. It only happened to me when I read Blaming though. I'm loving the Dodie Smith biog!

Dorothy, I would highly recommend Blaming.

Penny, Dear Dodie is one of my favourite read this year - loved every page!

Melwyk said...

Do you know, I've read this book twice and still have no memory of it whatsoever? I took it out from the library a while ago and only realized on the last couple of pages that I'd read it before. So not exactly memorable! And I wasn't keen on Angel so I think I'm also through with Elizabeth Taylor.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of Palladian, so I'll look out for it. I know what you mean about Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. I thought it was good, but oh, how bleak. At Mrs Lippincott's I liked a lot.