Elizabeth Taylor is finally beginning to gain the recognition due to her as one of the best English writers of the postwar period, prized and praised by Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel, among others. Inheriting Ivy Compton-Burnett’s uncanny sensitivity to the terrifying undercurrents that swirl beneath the apparent calm of respectable family life while showing a deep sympathy of her own for human loneliness, Taylor depicted dislocation with the unflinching presence of mind of Graham Greene. But for Taylor, unlike Greene, dislocation began not in distant climes but right at home. It is in the living room, playroom, and bedroom that Taylor stages her unforgettable dramas of alienation and impossible desire.
Taylor’s stories, many of which originally appeared in The New Yorker, are her central achievement. Here are self-improving spinsters and gossiping girls, war orphans and wallflowers, honeymooners and barmaids, mistresses and murderers. Margaret Drabble’s new selection reveals a writer whose wide sympathies and restless curiosity are matched by a steely penetration into the human heart and mind.
This captivating collection of 29 stories by Taylor a British novelist who wrote 11 novels (including At Mrs. Lippincote's) and four story collections includes an introduction by Margaret Drabble, who edited the book. Most of the stories revolve around female protagonists in unremarkable English settings. The title story is about a young girl named Rhoda, who attends a ball with her father. Her glamorous mother is sick and unable to attend, but she advises awkward Rhoda not to be shy. Their dynamic is emblematic of the tension between expectation and reality that affects many of Taylor's characters. In "The Letter Writers," spinster Emily finally meets a famous novelist she's admired from afar through a decade of epistolary friendship. Unfortunately, the meeting is awkward and strained, leaving Emily feeling ashamed. In "The Prerogative of Love," young, beautiful Arabella floats through her aunt's lunch party, filling the elder guests with a longing for their youth and levity. In "Flesh," a middle-aged pair on vacation strike up a brief adulterous romance, but are ultimately foiled. Taylor's vulnerable characters are simultaneously touching and heartbreaking.