Skip to main content

Review: Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor


Pages: 252
Original date of publication: 1957
My edition: 2012 (NYRB Classics)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, March 2012


This is the third of Elizabeth Taylor’s novels that I’ve read: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, which I enjoyed and In a Summer Season, which I couldn’t finish. However, Angel is amazing—probably one of the best novels I’ve red all year.

Set at around the turn of the century, the novel’s heroine, if such she can be called, is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in a long time. Angelica Deverell lives in a drab English town with her mother. A girl with irrepressible imagination, Angel grows up to become a famous novelist who churns out bad novels that her reading public nonetheless loves (Elizabeth Taylor apparently modeled Angel’s novels on those of Ethel M. Dell, who was a famous writers of romances in the early 20th century). Angel has an inflated sense of her own importance. She is obstinate, self-righteous, narcissistic, eccentric, arrogant, insensitive, and has a hard time showing emotion. And yet, I couldn’t stop reading this novel.

Angel’s only redeeming quality is her love of animals—which often gets eclipsed by her bad qualities. She has a way of completely unsettling the people around her—her husband, her publisher, her publisher’s wife, and her sister-in-law/live-in companion (was I the only one who got the subtext of this relationship? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it?). So she’s basically an un-heroine. It’s perhaps for the best that this book is only about 250 pages long, otherwise the reader might get tired of Angel and her behavior pretty quickly.

It wasn’t the author’s intention to make Angel likeable, but I was completed fascinated with her and her story—even as I knew that things weren’t going to turn out quite how she’d planned. In a way, this is a sad kind of commentary—how someone like Angel can rise and then fall so hard over the course of the 30 years this novel is set in. The novel is satire, though—Angel has absolutely no sense of humor, and takes herself too seriously, which is where some of the fun of the novel comes from. My only complaint is that the book seemed rushed sometimes--eg, it jumps from WWI to WWII without filling in the gap between.

Comments

starla said…
It reminds me of a short story by Irving Welsh, except that in that one the writer is sympathetic and it sets in the modern era. I'd like to read it, I really enjoy novels about writers. And lesbian subtext (which Welsh's novel coincidentally had too).
FABR Steph said…
I have never read one of Elizabeth Taylor's books. You, having read three of them, is quite a recommendation. I look forward to giving one a try. Thank you for your review.

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…