INTRODUCED BY SARAH WATERS
‘Every one of her books is a treat and this is my favourite, because of its wonderful cast of characters, and because of the deftness with which Taylor’s narrative moves between them … A wonderful writer’ SARAH WATERS
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
‘A magnificent and underrated mid-20th-century writer, the missing link between Jane Austen and John Updike’ – DAVID BADDIEL
Introduced by Neel Mukherjee
‘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
‘Elizabeth Taylor has an eye as sharply all-seeing as her prose is elegant – even the humdrum becomes astonishing when told in language that always aims for descriptive integrity, without a cliché in sight. As a result, Taylor excels in conveying the tragicomic poignancy of the everyday’ Daily Telegraph
When newly orphaned Cassandra Dashwood arrives as governess to little Sophy, the scene seems set for the archetypal romance between young girl and austere widowed employer. Strange secrets abound in the ramshackle house. But conventions are subverted in this atmospheric novel: one of its worlds is suffused with classical scholarship and literary romance, but the other is chaotic, quarrelsome and even farcical. Cassandra is to discover that in real life, tragedy, comedy and acute embarrassment are never far apart.
INTRODUCED BY DAVID BADDIEL
‘Elizabeth Taylor is finally being recognised as an important British author: an author of great subtlety, great compassion and great depth. As a reader, I have found huge pleasure in returning to Taylor’s novels and short stories many times over. As a writer I’ve returned to her too – in awe of her achievements, and trying to work out how she does it’ SARAH WATERS
Vinny Tumulty is a quiet, sensible man. When he goes to stay at a seaside town, his task is to comfort Isabella, a bereaved friend, and and he is prepared for a solemn few days of tears and consolation. But on the evening of his arrival, he looks out of the window at the sunset and catches sight of a beautiful woman walking by the seashore. Before the week is over Vinny has fallen in love, completely and utterly, for the first time in his middle-aged life. Emily, though, is a sleeping beauty, her secluded life hiding bitter secrets from the past.
The debut novel from Elizabeth Taylor – shortlisted for the Booker Prize
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.
‘Her stories remain with one, indelibly, as though they had been some turning-point in one’s own experience’ Elizabeth Bowen
‘No writer has described the English middle classes with more gently devastating accuracy’ Rebecca Abrams, Spectator
‘A Game of Hide and Seek showcases much of what makes Taylor a great novelist: piercing insight, a keen wit and a genuine sense of feeling for her characters’ Elizabeth Day, Guardian
INTRODUCED BY HELEN DUNMORE
Elizabeth Taylor’s darkest novel . . . She writes with a sensuous richness of language that draws the reader down the most shadowy paths . . . Extremely beguiling. Taylor makes the living moment present, touchable, disturbing, enchanting – Helen Dunmore
Spending the holiday with friends, as she has for many years, Camilla finds that their private absorptions – Frances with her painting and Liz with her baby – seem to exclude her from the gossipy intimacies of previous summers. Anxious that she will remain encased in her solitary life as a school secretary, and perhaps to spite of her friends, Camilla steps into an unlikely liaison with Richard Elton, a handsome, assured – and dangerous – liar.
Elizabeth Taylor’s darkest novel is a skillful exploration of the danger we’ll go to to avoid loneliness. Taylor is increasingly recognised as one of the best writers of the twentieth century, and this little-known novel displays her range admirably.
‘One of the great British novels of the twentieth century: a narrative of extraordinary reach, power and beauty’ SARAH WATERS
In memory of the wife who had once dishonoured and always despised him, Brian de Retteville founded Oby – a twelfth-century convent in a hidden corner of Norfolk. Two centuries later the Benedictine community is well established there and, as befits a convent whose origin had such chequered motives, the inhabitants are prey to the ambitions, squabbles, jealousies and pleasures of less spiritual environments. An outbreak of the Black Death, the collapse of the convent spire, the Bishop’s visitation and a nun’s disappearance are interwoven with the everyday life of the nuns, novices, successive Prioresses and the nun’s priest, in this affectionate and ironic observation of the more wordly history of a religious order.
Lolly Willowes is a twenty-eight-year-old spinster when her adored father dies, leaving her dependent upon her brothers and their wives. After twenty years of self-effacement as a maiden aunt, she decides to break free and moves to a small Bedfordshire village. Here, happy and unfettered, she enjoys her new existence nagged only by the sense of a secret she has yet to discover. That secret – and her vocation – is witchcraft, and with her cat and a pact with the Devil, Lolly Willowes is finally free.
An instant success on its publication in 1926, LOLLY WILLOWES is Sylvia Townsend Warner’s first and most magical novel. Deliciously wry and inviting, it was her piquant plea that single women find liberty and civility, a theme that would later be explored by Virginia Woolf in ‘A Room of One’s Own’.
A landmark in feminist literature, THE WOMEN’S ROOM is a biting social commentary of a world gone silently haywire. Written in the 1970s but with profound resonance today, this is a modern allegory that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted blindly and revered so completely.
‘Today’s “desperate housewives” eat your heart out! This is the original and still the best, a page-turner that makes you think. Essential reading’ Kate Mosse
‘They said this book would change lives – and it certainly changed mine’ Jenni Murray
‘Reading THE WOMEN’S ROOM was an intense and wonderful experience. It is in my DNA’ Kirsty Wark
‘THE WOMEN’S ROOM took the lid off a seething mass of women’s frustrations, resentments and furies; it was about the need to change things from top to bottom; it was a declaration of independence’ OBSERVER
During that burning day when we were crossing Iowa, our talk kept returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl whom we had both known long ago. More than any other person we remembered, this girl seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood . . . His mind was full of her that day. He made me see her again, feel her presence, revived all my old affection for her.’
MY ANTONIA is the unforgettable story of an immigrant woman’s life on the Nebraska plains, seen through the eyes of her childhood friend, Jim Burden. The beautiful, free-spirited, wild-eyed girl captured Jim’s imagination long ago and haunts him still, embodying for him the elemental spirit of the American frontier.
Daphne du Maurier’s lushly written novel . . . is a rapturous celebration of the beauties of the Cornish landscape – Michele Roberts
Cornwall, 1900s. Plyn Boat Yard is a hive of activity, and Janet Coombe longs to share in the excitement of seafaring: to travel, to have adventures, to know freedom.
But constrained by the times, instead she marries her cousin Thomas, a boat builder, and settles down to raise a family.
Janet’s loving spirit – the passionate yearning for adventure and for love – is passed down to her son, and through him to his children’s children. As generations of the family struggle against hardship and loss, their intricately plotted history is set against the greater backdrop of war and social change in Britain.
Her debut novel, The Loving Spirit established du Maurier’s reputation and style with an inimitable blend of romance, history and adventure.
A COMING-OF-AGE TALE OF ADVENTURE AND LOVE, FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF REBECCA
‘The iron of the bridge felt hot under my hand. The sun had been upon it all day. Gripping hard with my hands I lifted myself on to the bar and gazed down steadily on the water passing under . . . I thought of places I would never see, and women I should never love’
As far as Richard’s father, a famous poet, is concerned, his son has no talent as a writer and will never amount to anything. In a moment of crisis, Richard decides to end his life, but is saved by Jake, a passing stranger. The two men, both at turning points in their lives, set out for adventure, jumping aboard a ship to Norway.
Their travels take them through Europe and they form a passionate friendship. But in bohemian Paris Richard meets Hesta, a music student who inspires him to follow his artistic dreams.
No other popular writer has so triumphantly defied classification . . . She satisfied all the questionable criteria of popular fiction, and yet satisfied the exacting requirements of “real literature”, something very few novelists ever do – Margaret Forster