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Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather. The Puzzleheaded Girl by Christina Stead. The Devastating Boys by Elizabeth Taylor. Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Product details File Size: July 7, Sold by: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention taylor father china pearl elizabeth buck novelist mother missionary fascinating popular literature century portrait lives novels biography beginning main certainly.

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. God bless Netflix for having that wretched movie "Angel" available for instant streaming. Otherwise I may have never found this wonderful book, which is now one of my all-time favorites. To me this book is flawless--a masterpiece.

Being an aspiring writer myself, I found the first half hour especially fascinating--this I watched over and over. Hearing that the star, Romola Garai, considered it her work she was most proud of, I watched it some more to see if it had more to offer than the shallow thrill of watching Angel skyrocket from disgruntled school girl to glamorous author. The movie is really bad, and in many important ways different than the book--not the least of which is how they transformed Angel from an insufferable, unattractive woman with about two redeeming qualities to a gorgeous bombshell whose worse offense seems to be a fatal combination of unrepentant cheekiness and ignorance.

That change alone pretty much completely undoes the entire premise of the novel, which is actually about one of the most unattractive and repellent characters you will ever meet. Elizabeth Taylor does an outstanding job of explaining her characters--they just make sense, as bizarre as their lives sometimes are. Often in literature the picture does not add up--the author loves their characters too much to show us his real warts and instead just shoves on us a couple tired character flaws pride!

Angel is an exaggerated version of a person we have all met. She is self-absorbed to the max, oblivious to the world around her where it does not serve her purposes she lives solely for praise and admiration, notices the criticism but condemns it without hesitation and therefore ignores it--and she is completely oblivious to the suffering of those closest to her: But Elizabeth Taylor does not just use the book to drive home some point about, "Isn't this woman just awful? Ha ha, she's so stupid, right? This novel had me rethinking people I knew who had some of Angel's off-putting characteristics who I generally have just written off as "bad or annoying people.

A short yet scathing letter from a detractor was a delicious surprise dropped in unexpectedly and not labored over for long, as many of the delights of this book are--"Dear Madam," she read. Please keep your excesses to yourself and spare yours in disgust, Lover of Literature. Ultimately, as disgusting as Angel is, to me she was an inspiring character. From the very beginning--if she wants something, she goes after it. Most people would never even dare to have the wishes she had from childhood, let alone actually try for them, let alone succeed. I know this may seem like weird praise, but one of the things I love about this book is the complete absence of a identifiable voice from the author Taylor, not Angel.

Fun is made of Angel over and over, yet the author does not come across as someone trying to be jolly or cutting--she just gives you information and it speaks for itself. Angel is never described as ugly or disgusting or odious directly. Instead you have people's hair-raising reactions to her an enraged woman telling Angel to keep her misguided efforts of charity to herself, a reporter choking down spoiled food because he's too scared of Angel to reject it, a poor woman whose dog was killed by Angel's own pet, who Angel has the audacity to heap abuse and threats upon.

Taylor does not have a clear and recognizable voice in this book--but boy do her characters. Angel seems prone to inspiring angry diatribes from others--and they are a delight to read. I am a shameless bibliophile. I have read many of the "great authors. I can't put Taylor up on their level because I simply have not read enough of her work to make that judgement. But I loved this book--I cannot remember the last time a book so delighted me. Granted, being an aspiring writer myself may have played a role in my fascination of reading a book by an author written about an author.

But I wish to God there were more books like this being written. Everybody today seems to rely on style or elaborate plots or having a "schtick"--they would do better to just create better characters like the ones you find here. Elizabeth Taylor must have been a very keen observer of human behavior in her life. She has an amazing understanding of it. She understands why people act like they act, why they think the way they think, and why they are the way they are. In a world of hamburgers and hotdogs, this book was like a choice cut of steak, grilled to perfection, served with savory and perfectly complimentary side dishes.

The storyline in The Soul of Kindness revolves around Flora Quartermaine, a beautiful young woman who seems to have the perfect life. She is married to Richard, her loving husband and hard-working businessman, manager of the family-owned factory passed down from his father, Percy. In addition to Richard, Flora has a close circle of friends upon whom she lavishes her own unique brand of kindness: While Flora considers herself to be the very soul of kindness, in reality this is far from the truth, her good intentions often causing more harm than good.

Kit, an aspiring actor, has very little real talent, but Flora encourages him terribly, building up his hopes and dreams with the best of intentions even though everyone else can see how futile and potentially damaging this is proving to be. Flora, in fact, had given it to him and he had been obliged to take it in.

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In four years, he had found that Flora was not biddable at all. To a certain extent, Flora has been shielded from the harsh realities of life by those around her. First by her mother in those early years, then by Meg who recognised that the protective environment nurtured by Mrs Secretan could not be broken down without consequences.

In this scene, Richard is wondering why he has not told Flora about a chance encounter with one of his neighbours, the rather lonely Elinor Pringle, a woman with whom he has developed a close friendship. While Elinor is not in love with Richard, she values his companionship, someone to talk to and have a drink with every now and again while her busy politician husband is caught up in his own world. To have kept quiet about it, had given it the significance of a secret arrangement. Now it was too late, and if Flora came to hear of it, as more than likely she might, a little puzzled frown would come between her brows — the expression she wore when she was bewildered by other standards of behaviour than her own.

So far, and by the skin of his teeth, he felt. The face was his responsibility now and it would surely be his fault if it were altered, if the Botticelli calm were broken, or the appealing gaze veiled. Mrs Secretan took the letter and opened it.

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The words were the kind which might be spoken from a deathbed or to someone lying on one. She read the letter through again, telling herself that Flora had meant well, meant very well, poor girl. In fact she had always meant well. That intention had been seen clearly, lying behind some of her biggest mistakes. Mrs Secretan is a typical Elizabeth Taylor character.

There is a sense of despondency about her, knowing as she does that a life of loneliness almost certainly lies ahead now that Flora has flown the nest. There are some priceless scenes between Mrs Secretan and her slightly dotty housekeeper, Miss Folley, a woman whose pride is wounded when she discovers she is the source of some amusement and frustration in the Secretan household.

In the face of diminishing funds, Meg is forced to look for a new place to live, somewhere outside of London. Patrick, in his infinite wisdom, suggests Towersey, a little town by the Thames, and he and Meg spend a dispiriting Saturday afternoon looking at one dismal dwelling after another. Eventually, Meg settles on the least-worst option, the best of a bad lot. Moreover, the melancholy mood is reflected in the descriptions of the atmosphere and late afternoon light in dreary Towersey. Patrick too has problems of his own having fallen for the thoroughly unsuitable Frankie, a somewhat petulant and unreliable young man who seems out for what he can get.

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As far as Flora is concerned, these fanciful ideas are just gossip. While I may have made this sound like a sad novel, there are some brilliant flashes of humour here too. Mrs Lodge opened the door to him. Although it was only half-past five a faint but appetising smell of roasting meat came up the stairs. It must be a very large joint to have been put on so early, he decided. Of course, they lived well, he thought vaguely, taking off his overcoat and handing it to Mrs Lodge, who almost staggered under its weight.

Patrick Barlow stood up as the drawing-room door was opened. Always here, thought Percy. He wondered why Richard did not put his put his foot down. Flora sat on the sofa. Alice was on her lap, having her napkins changed. In the drawing-room , he thought. There are instances of wounded pride, unrequited love, the need for a little warmth and affection, loneliness, worthlessness, bitterness and guilt.

In the end though, the story comes back to Flora and the fallout from her misguided actions. Interestingly, Liz never actual meets Flora in person, she only hears about her through the other characters. This is my third Taylor after Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont and A Game of Hide and Seek , and if anything it has left me even more eager to read the rest of her books. As the novel opens the Davenant family are moving into their new home, a house near the RAF base where Flight Lieutenant Roddy Davenant is currently stationed. The setting is a small town somewhere in the South of England during WW2.


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From the opening pages, it is clear that Julia feels somewhat uncomfortable in these unfamiliar surroundings. The Davenants have rented the house from the recently widowed Mrs Lippincote, a woman they have yet to meet, but whose presence hangs over the place like a dark shadow.

At first sight, the house is rather dark and oppressive, full of mahogany furniture, old-fashioned furnishings and yellowing photographs. They set out that day as if they were laying the foundations of something. But it was only something which perished very quickly, the children scattered, the tureen draped with cobwebs, and now the widow, the bride, perhaps at this moment unfolding her napkin alone at a table in a small private hotel down the road.

Even though Julia is not terribly likeable, I found her very interesting and intriguing. Julia makes no secret of the fact that she is not overly fond of Eleanor, a point that becomes increasingly apparent as the story unfolds. Eleanor, who happens to be in love with Roddy, despairs of Julia for not being a more conventional wife. In other words, someone like Eleanor herself. This next quote seems to capture something of the dynamics at play between Julia, Roddy and Eleanor — Julia has just asked Roddy if there is anywhere they could go for a drink. And are there no pubs?

This is a residential district. If you go, you will have to take the bus, and when you get there it will be closing time. Eleanor, whose evening dress was royal blue, leant forward and said to Roddy: Why should her pride not allow it? There is some mild flirting between Julia and the Wing Commander, but nothing too serious. Julia also spends time with the rather forlorn Mr Taylor, an old acquaintance from London — now in diminished circumstances — whom she bumps into one evening while out for a walk.

Roddy dislikes the idea of Julia being out on her own of an evening, especially when it becomes apparent that she has been having the occasional drink or two. It is his belief that respectable married women should not go cavorting about the countryside at night, walking into pubs on their own and generally letting the side down.

I must admit to finding this next quote rather telling. Society necessarily has a great many little rules, especially relating to the behaviour of women. One accepted them and life ran smoothly and without embarrassment, or as far as that is possible where there are two sexes. Without the little rules, everything became queer and unsafe. When he had married Julia, he had thought her woefully ignorant of the world; had looked forward, indeed, to assisting in her development. But she had been grown up all the time; or, at least, she had not changed.

The root of the trouble was not ignorance at all, but the refusal to accept. She stood there smiling, blinking still in the bright light. He was still fanning the air peevishly with his hand. Even though they realise Eleanor is rather lonely and in need of a friend, the members of this group treat her as an individual in her own right, accepting her into their fold wherever possible. For her part, Julia cannot help but needle Eleanor about her relationship with Mr Aldridge, passing snide comments here and there, attempting to belittle both her cousin-in-law and Mr Aldridge in the process.

Each scene is beautifully observed — Taylor was reported to have said that she wrote in scenes rather than in narrative, and I think you can see it here in her debut. At one point in the novel, Julia states that she wants to try to be more grown-up — more understanding towards Roddy, more patient with Oliver, and more charitable towards Eleanor.

To find out if she achieves this, perhaps I can encourage you to read this excellent book for yourselves. As the novel opens, eighteen-year-old Vesey is spending the summer with his Aunt Caroline and Uncle Hugo at their home in the South of England. Both Harriet and Vesey are something of a disappointment to their elders. Harriet shows no signs of fulfilling any of the ambitions or passions of her mother who, together with Caroline, was an active participant in the suffragette movement. Having struggled at school, Harriet now seems content to daydream and pick flowers in the countryside.

Vesey, on the other hand, is bright, but somewhat lazy and insensitive. At times, he seems attentive to Harriet, but he can also be spiteful and uncaring. He envisages himself as a writer, a man of letters, and a place at Oxford beckons. Over the summer months, Harriet falls in love with Vesey; she imagines a life with him, possibly a future defined by marriage and everything this entails.

But while Harriet is clearly in love with Vesey, his future intentions remain somewhat unclear. Vesey, whose next steps would take him over the threshold of a new and promising world, wished to go without any backward glances or entanglements. He was not one to keep up friendships, never threw out fastening tendrils such as letters or presents or remembrances; was quite unencumbered by all the things which Harriet valued and kept: He never remembered birthdays or any other anniversary.


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  • Fearing that she may have missed her chance with Vesey, Harriet is bereft at his departure. A year seems a long time to wait until the following summer when she hopes to see him again. With Vesey gone, Harriet finds a job in a gown shop, and in time she meets Charles Jephcott, a man who, at thirty-five, seems old before his time.

    Charles, a solicitor by profession, is solemn, steady and unexciting, but he is attentive to Harriet and wishes to marry her. Uncertain of what the future may hold for her, Harriet agrees to marry Charles even though she is still in love with Vesey, a development that brings us to the end of the first part of the novel. Harriet and Charles have been married for several years, and they have a daughter, Betsy, aged fifteen. There is a sense that Harriet has filled her days with domestic duties, managing the household administration and taking care of Betsy.