Book review: Angel

Elizabeth TaylorThe rise and fall of one woman. Fifteen-year old Angel Deverell has always known she was different, determined to do better in life than her mother, when she is 15 she decides she is destined to live at nearby mansion Paradise House, where her aunt works as a maid. Angel starts to write a novel, allowing flight to her fantasies, caring nothing for accuracies of history, detail or context. Her publisher agrees to take on The Lady Irania with misgivings but it flies off the shelves and a new romantic novelist is born. Angel, already living the life of a grand novelist, writes a second and a third. This is Angel by Elizabeth Taylor.

As well as the obvious interest for readers who are also novelists, this book is a wonderful study of a girl’s life, a girl who doesn’t take no for an answer, who grows into a woman who finds it impossible to accept advice or guidance from anyone. She learns to ignore the insults of the critics and relish her sales figures, whilst remaining separate from her readers. Elizabeth Taylor is a novelist with an acute observational eye and in Angel she has created a monster heroine: vain, blinkered, stubborn and lacking entirely in humility, empathy or self-knowledge, she leaves a trail as she charges through life. She is certainly unlikeable, but Taylor has created a chemistry which made me want to continue reading Angel’s story.

This is a quiet novel, the storyline has no bells and whistles but it follows Angel’s life through a time of great upheaval. She is born a Victorian, becomes an Edwardian, survives the Great War, the depressed 1930s and the Second World War. As women are agitating for the vote free of the constraints of their husbands, Angel has no husband to support her or vote for her. She is an independent woman and we see her life unfurl not only in her writing, but her interactions with men and women.

If you like ‘Angel’, try:-
‘At Mrs Lippincote’s’ by Elizabeth Taylor
‘The Lightning Tree’ by Emily Woof
‘The Past’ by Tessa Hadley

‘Angel’ by Elizabeth Taylor [UK: Virago] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A novel about a #writer: ANGEL by Elizabeth Taylor #bookreview via @SandraDanby

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