I can still remember where I first met Elizabeth Taylor.
I was in my very early twenties, I was in the library in South Harrow, and there she was. Dressed in a striking green uniform that I had learned to recognise as a sign of quality because it said ‘Virago Modern Classic!’
I discovered then that there were two Elizabeth Taylors: one a hugely famous actress and the other a rather less famous author.
An unlucky coincidence for the author, who began her career before the actress but found success later.
The book I had picked up was named ‘Angel.’ It looked quite wonderful, and when I read it I found that it was.
I picked up two more novels by Elizabeth Taylor on later visits to the library – ‘At Mrs Lippincote’s’ and ‘The Soul of Kindness.’ I’m afraid I found them rather dull and so I didn’t look out for any more of the author’s books.
And that was very nearly the end of the story.
But then I moved back to Cornwall. And, because I wanted to keep track of the books I had in storage, I opened a LibraryThing account and started recording what I owned.
As soon as I entered a few Virago Modern Classics I received an invitation to join the Virago Modern Classics group. It was lovely to find kindred spirits, and wonderful to realise that LibraryThing was going to be so much more than a place to catalogue my books.
In time I noticed that many of those kindred spirits held Elizabeth Taylor in high regard, and that Virago had published every single one of her dozen novels – an honour not accorded to many authors.
I began to wonder if, now that I was a little older, I might appreciate her writing more.
And then I noticed a little hardback edition of a title that seemed rather elusive in the library: ‘A Wreath of Roses.’
I brought it home, I read it, I fell completely in love.
And I realised that I had been too young when I first picked her books up. I hadn’t appreciated the subtlety and sophistication of her writing, the brilliance of her characterisation, the depth of her understanding of human relationships …
The majority of her books were definitely not the right thing for a busy young trainee accountant, squeezing books in between work and study. They were grown up books, in the very best sense.
And now it is Elizabeth Taylor’s centenary year and a year-long celebration is underway.
A novel a month, in chronological order, with discussions on LibraryThing and a different host blog each month.
This month’s book is ‘A Wreath of Roses’ and the discussion will be here. Because this is the book that made me realise just how wonderful Elizabeth Taylor is.
I’ll be reading it again, and launching a discussion on Friday 20th April.
I’d love you to pick up a copy, if you have one, or to rush out to find one if you don’t – Virago reissued ‘A Wreath of Roses’ quite recently, and so copies shouldn’t be difficult to find.
But don’t worry if you don’t have a copy, or if you don’t have time to read. I am rather late issuing this invitation, and so on the Friday 20th April I shall also be giving away a lovely new copy of the book.
It is a book, and Elizabeth Taylor is an author, I can recommend unreservedly …
Although there are still Elizabeth Taylor books I have yet to read, this one I will be re-reading for the librarything virago group read along. I read it not that long ago and really loved it. Looking forward to reading it again soon. I have now read At Mrs Lippincotes, Palladian, The View of the Harbour, Blaming, In a Summer Season, Mrs Palfrey at the Clairmont, Angel and a Wreath of Roses. I have some though not all of the ones I have yet to read, and am looking to acquire a copy of Blaming which I don’t have and all the short stories that I don’t already have. This centenary is helping me to become a serious fan. Also I can’t wait for the Elizabeth Taylor day in Reading on the 21st of April.
What a wonderful story! It’s great you were able to host in a month that had such personal significance. I just finished A Wreath of Roses yesterday and thought it was pretty amazing. I can’t wait for your discussion!
I have just bought an ebook version so am keen to get started.
Okay, I must read Elizabeth Taylor some day, but I have the worst luck with her so far! I’ve tried to read 3 of her novels now and am not ‘getting’ her writing. I know I will like her if I can just breakthrough and find the one novel of hers that I enjoy – do you think it would be A Wreath of Roses?
As it is an author who has been around for quite a while I am sure I can track down the books! it is thenew books which are hard to find. This is going on my TBR anyway.
Lovely post, although you got me too excited at the beginning – I, of course, thought you had actually met the woman… shame!
I’ve been meaning to read A Wreath of Roses for ages – someone (you?) had told me it was one of her best. So hopefully I’ll manage to join in.
I have not read any Taylor, but seen much about her on blogs etc. is there a particular book that I should start with? I may give a sample a go on the kindle, just to see how I get on.
I look forward though to reading about her and learning about the books.
I tried a ‘Game of Hide and Seek’ a couple of years ago, intrigued by all the recommendations for Elizabeth Taylor, but couldn’t get into it, but ‘A Wreath of Roses’ I did quite enjoy. Will be interesting to see a discussion – I think she is probably quite an acquired taste… A Wreath of Roses does leave quite an odd sort of bleak resignation, as if produced in unhappiness.
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