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).
Anonymous 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

Review: The Tudor Secret, by CW Gortner

Pages: 327Original date of publication:My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s)Why I decided to read: Heard about this through Amazon.comHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, December 2010Originally published as The Secret Lion, The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth.There ‘s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around—primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust a seemingly nobody with this …

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My 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…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…