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.
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.
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’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 …