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Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A VIEW OF THE HARBOUR by Elizabeth Taylor
My great holiday reading treat was to allow myself another taste of my new favourite author. My third.
I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first two and think I may have come into her oeuvre at the top by reading In A Summer Season first.
I’ve read it twice now and it has taken its place in my personal Top 100 Favourite Novels. It’s a miniature masterpiece.
This one follows her format of an omniscient point of view of a small group of people over a relatively short period of time, so that you see each moment through the eyes and feelings of each person involved in it. It makes me wish you could live like that in real life.
As usual the main focus is a middle-class English family, in the post-war period, but there were some peripheral characters in this one, which didn’t ring as true to me as I expect from this author.
I have never liked all her characters – but that’s precisely what makes her writing so vivid. You see their flaws, but also experience their feelings, which makes it impossible entirely to despise anyone. The empathy is written in.
A bonus of this volume is an introduction by another writer I admire, Sarah Waters, another massive E. Taylor fan. She says it’s her favourite - and she particularly enjoys the characters I didn’t, so there you go.
One thing she said that did really resonate with me though, is that she believes the reason Elizabeth Taylor – the novelist - isn’t better known, is because of the coincidence of her name with the other Elizabeth Taylor, the film star.
I think that’s a very good and interesting theory – and please help me to turn it round, by reading her novels and telling everyone you know how good they are.
Reading satisfaction: 7
Recommend to best girlfriend: 8
Recommend to mother: 9
Recommend to niece: 8
Recommend to gay best friend: 7
Recommend to man pal: 5
Recommend to Helen Razer: 5
Read on public transport: 9
It's been a diverse career. Not many people have written for Allure and (the late-lamented...) Gourmet mag.
I've been a magazine editor, an op ed columnist on a broadsheet newspaper, and for years covered the fashion shows in Paris, Milan etc.
But while I shifted between the worlds of food, fashion and current affairs, there was one overriding passion: books.
Now I write them - five novels published, with another due out this year, and several books of journalism.
Here I write about them.