Monday, 26 March 2012

Viewing Elizabeth Taylor

 It's Elizabeth Taylor's Centenary year &, as part of the year long celebration,Simon over at Stuck-in-a-Book is hosting  a discussion of this title.
He's summarised the plot far more ably than I, so I'm confining myself to considering some questions that he's asked contributors to think about.
What did I think of it? I can't say that I liked it because "liked" and an Elizabeth Taylor novel don't sit easily together. I was fascinated in the same way that you can be fascinated when you pick up a rock & see the creatures you have uncovered scuttling about in the light. This is what intrigues me about her writing, on the surface there is nothing much going on but underneath it's a different story. This seaside community of, apparently, staid, ordinary people proves to be a hotbed of intrigue, strangeness &, frankly, downright nastiness.Something that I think is a hallmark of Taylor's writing & why, yes, I would know this book was by her, is her ability to report the most awful actions so calmly. It can often be pages later that the shock kicks in & you think "I don't believe she/he did/said that". Just consider how Tory treats Beth, her supposed best friend, & consider whether your own closest friend would behave in such a way. Another hallmark of Taylor's writing is a strange, almost sinister, amorality; ultimately, Tory never seems to really care about what she's done.
Do I think Taylor succeeds in her aims? A difficult one this because I find it quite hard to catch what her aims are. Is she putting a solid seaside community under the microscope & examining all she finds? If so, she succeeds. Is she exploring choices that lead to ruin or redemption? Perhaps, but, often, the paths aren't followed to the end.  It's another Taylorian ability, as other reviewers have noted, to leave you wanting to know where the characters end up. What happens to them in five or ten years time? Is this deliberate, I suspect so.
Something that I find fascinating is the number of reviewers who find Taylor's novels funny because this is a strand that I definitely miss.Sinister & quietly disturbing, yes, but funny?
 "View of the Harbour" is one of my favourites by this writer. Quiet, pin sharp observation & layers of undercurrents that intrigue you every time you read it. It always leaves you wondering.

If you are wondering  about Elizabeth Taylor enough to want to wonder some more there's a workshop in Reading to explore some of her works:-

Saturday 21 April, 11am-5.30pm
Reading’s Own Elizabeth Taylor
Discover the books, the author and the history
A day of talks, walks and discussion to celebrate the centenary (1912-1975) of a great post-war novelist enjoying renewed popularity.

Here's a link to the booking page. 

 At a very reasonable £10 it looks to be a fascinating day.


  1. Lovely, thoughtful stuff, Alison! I will link to this tomorrow...

    Are you going to the ET day? I have booked!

  2. Am indeed. Let's hope the sunshine continues :)

  3. I loved this description in your review -- it's spot on!
    Quiet, pin sharp observation & layers of undercurrents that intrigue you every time you read it. It always leaves you wondering.

    Thanks for your thoughts -- this is my favourite Taylor as well (so far, anyway!)

    1. Thanks Laura. I was more than a little nervous about joining in with the reviews, being new to the blogging game.