The Elizabeth Taylor Bundle
If you are in search of an author with a substantial backlist, whose novels are poetic, funny and full of class politics and deeply felt emotions, it is time to pick-up the ‘other’ Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975) is increasingly recognised as one of the best British writers of the twentieth century. She wrote her first book, At Mrs Lippincote’s, during the war while her husband was in the Royal Air Force, and this was followed by eleven further novels and a children’s book, Mossy Trotter.
Don’t be fooled by the prim titles, Taylor’s novels are funny, savage and full of loneliness. Her character’s use their propriety like armour, in much the same way the author herself did throughout her life. Taylor’s novels use seemingly arbitrary events—casual deaths, unexpected coincidences—to highlight the confusion and disorder underneath the surface of everyday life. Her novels subvert domestic routine with sly humour and careful observations about everyday life. Scroll down to discover the fourteen Elizabeth Taylor books Virago publish, in order of their original publication.
This bundle contains five of Taylor's much loved novels, including:
At Mrs Lippincote's was Elizabeth Taylor's debut novel, first published in 1945 it was republished on the Virago Modern Classics list in 1988 and the edition in this bundle is the most recently reissue from 2018.
Mrs Lippincote's house, with its mahogany furniture and yellowing photographs, stands as a reminder of all the certainties that have vanished with the advent of war. Temporarily, this is home for Julia, who has joined her husband Roddy at the behest of the RAF. Although she can accept the pomposities of service life, Julia's honesty and sense of humour prevent her from taking her role as seriously as her husband, that leader of men, might wish; for Roddy, merely love cannot suffice - he needs homage as well as admiration. And Julia, while she may be a most unsatisfactory officer's wife, is certainly no hypocrite.
First published in 1947, A View of the Harbour was brought to the Virago Modern Classics list in 1987. In 2018, this remarkable novel was included in the Virago Modern Classics 40th Anniversary collection.
In the faded coastal village of Newby, everyone looks out for - and in on - each other, and beneath the deceptively sleepy exterior, passions run high.
Beautiful divorcee Tory is secretly involved with her neighbour, Robert, while his wife Beth, Tory's best friend, is consumed by the worlds she creates in her novels, oblivious to the relationship developing next door. Their daughter Prudence is aware, however, and is appalled by the treachery she observes. Mrs Bracey, an invalid whose grasp on life is slipping, forever peers from her window, constantly prodding her daughters for news of the outside world. And Lily Wilson, a lonely young widow, is frightened of her own home. Into their lives steps Bertram, a retired naval officer with the unfortunate capacity to inflict lasting damage while trying to do good.
'Her stories remain with one, indelibly, as though they had been some turning-point in one's own experience' Elizabeth Bowen
'Always intelligent, often subversive and never dull, Elizabeth Taylor is the thinking person's dangerous housewife. Her sophisticated prose combines elegance, icy wit and freshness in a stimulating cocktail' Valerie Martin
INTRODUCED BY SARAH WATERS
First published in 1953, The Sleeping Beauty was first published on the Virago Modern Classics list in 1982. This novel is a subtle, beautifully written love story.
INTRODUCED BY DAVID BADDIEL
First published in 1968, The Wedding Group was published as a Virago Modern Classic in 1985. The latest edition was published in 2019, included in this bundle.
'"You know,'"Midge began, and paused. She was rather taken aback, and could not at once think of anything to say. "Perhaps there's nothing so dangerous as having led a sheltered life."'
INTRODUCED BY CHARLOTTE MENDELSON
Cressy has grown up in a world of women, presided over by her eccentric, artist grandfather Harry Bretton. Rebelling against the wholesome, organic values of her home life, Cressy decides to leave home in search of more ephemeral pleasures. Taking a job in an antiques shop, she meets David, a self-satisfied journalist, also looking for means of fleeing the family nest. But as Cressy cannot fend for herself and David is securely tied to his mother's apron strings, this act of escape for both of them proves a powerful form of bondage.
'It is time that justice was done to Elizabeth Taylor... All her writings could be described as coming into the category of comedy. Comedy is the best vehicle for truths that are too fierce to be borne' Anita Brookner
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1971. It was Taylor's eleventh novel and was first published as a Virago Modern Classic in 1982. The novel was adapted for television in 1973 and was the basis for a 2005 film, also called Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.
On a rainy Sunday in January, the recently widowed Mrs Palfrey arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are magnificently eccentric and endlessly curious, living off crumbs of affection and snippets of gossip. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies: boredom and the Grim Reaper.
Then one day Mrs Palfrey strikes up an unlikely friendship with an impoverished young writer, Ludo, who sees her as inspiration for his novel.