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Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

I kept seeing these beautiful editions of Elizabeth Taylor's novels in the library and local bookshops until I could no longer resist!  I had also read several other book bloggers who all sung the praises of Taylor's books.  So, with that sense of excitement one gets when about to discover a new author you are sure you're going to love, I picked up A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor from my local library.

A Game of Hide and Seek tells the story of Harriet and Vesey, childhood friends whose love is suppressed over many years, through circumstances both in and out of their control.  After many summers spent together at Vesey's aunt's house, Harriet and Vesey drift apart.  He goes to university, moving into a different social sphere.  Harriet meets and marries Charles - a kind man who was jilted by his first love.  She is not in love with Charles, but they fall into marriage because there seems no other option.  When Vesey comes back into Harriet's life she is torn between the true and deep love and connection she feels to Vesey and the loyalty she feels towards Charles.  Thrown into the mix aswell is Harriet's teenage daughter Betsy, who becomes obsessed with Vesey and his relationship with her mother.

Taylor's writing is just right - not too meandering and descriptive and not too sparse and clinical.  The story is littered with interesting and comic bit players who add to the reality of the world she is creating.  I particularly enjoyed the female camaraderie of the girls in the gown shop where Harriet worked and how she grew from a girl to a young woman.  It is these women who teach her 'femininity' and that there is more to being a woman than men.

For me, the cleverness of this novel is the way in which Taylor so carefully balances the different aspects of the story.  As a reader you feel no anger towards Harriet as she spends more time with Vesey behind Charles's back.  Instead, all I really felt was her confusion as to what was truly right - the age-old quandary of heart or mind.

One of the most interesting ideas Taylor explores is that we are born 'complete' in terms of personality, and that life is merely the unfolding and revealing of that true whole self.

I loved this book and will certainly read more Elizabeth Taylor - beautifully written, with humour and pathos.  There may not be much in terms of plot, but in some ways this is an even more skilled type of story-telling - one which teaches us something about the human condition and makes us think about our own motives and decisions.


  1. A lovely review. I haven't read any Taylor yet (although I do own a few of her books). I must say this is the one that intrigues me the most 9althouhg sadly it is not a Taylor that I own a copy of).

  2. Thanks for your comment - I have no idea if this is one of Taylor's best novels as it's my first and only, but I loved it! One to keep an eye out for in the charity shops and library!