One thought on “A Wreath of Roses”

  1. This was my second Taylor novel - I enjoyed Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont last year. This one is darker and dates from much earlier in her career - it was chosen as one of the 64 novels in The Mookse and the Gripes group's Mookse Madness competition (also last year), and I have a long term objective to read all of these.The book opens on a railway platform, where the central character Camilla is waiting for a train, as is Richard. They ignore each other but witness a messy suicide in which a man [...]

  2. Three women spending a holiday month together, as they have for years, the two younger ones friends since childhood, the older woman who was the governess of one, and is spending her retirement dedicated to her passion for painting. Only this year, things have changed for each of them in small and large ways, and they are all realizing that shared experiences no longer unite them. There are three men as characters in this novel as well, who are cause and effect of the changes. Once again, Elizab [...]

  3. What an outstanding piece of work. Though I have a few reservations with the last 15 pages, there was never any doubt that this one was getting a 5 star rating from me. The depth of characterization is remarkable, and the writing throughout is excellent. I found myself jotting down lines and page numbers for future reference almost every few pages. A great novel from an underrated writer.

  4. Elizabeth Taylor’s writing is beautifully evocative the minutiae of daily life, the interactions between characters are all wonderful. I always think that a first sentence of a novel can be so important. I absolutely love the first sentence of this novel – it just sets the mood perfectly.Afternoons seem unending on branch-line stations in England in summer time. The spiked shelter prints an unmoving shadow on the platform, geraniums blaze, whitewashed stones assault the eye. Such trains as c [...]

  5. Three women spend a week together in the country. They have done this for many years, but this year something has changed.Liz has married and she has a baby son, but she is uncertain in the role of wife and mother. Camilla is a school secretary, and she is acutely aware that her frien’d life has changed while hers has not. Frances, their hostess, used to be Liz’s governess before she became an artist, and her increasing awareness of her mortality is beginning to influence her painting.They a [...]

  6. This book was published in 1949 and its setting is a small town in England shortly after the end of WWII. The book opens with Camilla and Richard ignoring each other as they wait for the train. But then, a man throws himself at a passing train. While he misses the train, he does manage to break his back and die before Camilla's and Richard's train arrives. On the train, Richard choses to sit across from Camilla and she, somewhat reluctantly, finds herself talking with him, even though she immedi [...]

  7. Unfortunately, this is my least favourite of the Elizabeth Taylor novels I’ve read so far. It surprised me how little I liked it as I have been hugely impressed by Taylor’s writing by the six or so books of hers I’ve read. In general I’m not a huge fan of delicate short novels about middle class English women – I need a bit more blood and guts and soul in my reading – but I was won over on account of simply how brilliant her writing is. The Wreath of Roses should therefore have been [...]

  8. Finally a good book, after a month of disappointments and so-sos! The story is good, but what I really love is Taylor's skill at describing things *just so*, so you're right there during a stifling summer day with dark green light filtering through the leaves of a tree Makes me miss England ;) Oh and her characterisation isn't too shoddy either.

  9. Elizabeth Taylor, whose writing I discovered by chance last year, is becoming one of my favourite novelists. "A Wreath of Roses" is only the second book of hers that I have read. It is a quite brilliant study of loneliness, isolation and the human capacity for self-deception. Set in an English village some time after the end of the Second World War, the story features Camilla and Liz (who are best friends) and the latter's ex-governess, Frances. Every summer, Camilla and Liz spend their holiday [...]

  10. I feel like Elizabeth Taylor gets overlooked.If you don’t know her work, think Nancy Mitford’s sharp commentary on society meets Richard Yates’s angst meets Anita Brookner’s self-contained female characters.Taylor’s stories are consistently good – there’s an evenness about her style that is dependable and recognisable and yet her stories are not predictable. A Wreath of Roses is no exception. Often regarded as her ‘darkest’ novel, it’s the story of Camilla, who is spending th [...]

  11. If Virginia Woolf had had insight into the characters of 'normal' people rather than neurotic intellectuals, or if Katherine Mansfield had had healthy lungs, the two might have collaborated on this remarkably good novel. I was fascinated by it, not least because after the dramatic opening with the suicide on the railway, very little actual happens until the genuinely tense finale (which I'm sure is influenced by the activities of the notorious murderer, Neville Heath). What we get instead of 'pl [...]

  12. Although this may be my least favorite of the Elizabeth Taylor books that I have read, I am still giving it 4 stars for the wonderful description of a certain time and place and her terrific skill for characterization. She is a great writer.

  13. There's a psychological astuteness to Elizabeth Taylor's writing which is quite remarkable. 3 women on vacation together have known each other for many years but are now drifting apart due mainly to their differing life stages and the various men in their lives. How they interact with each other and their husbands and lover is the core of this novel. The writing is superb although there is a slight clinical quality or emotional distance overall. Occasionally I found myself wondering why these 3 [...]

  14. Masterful novel, one of the best I've read in years. An unwavering stare at loneliness and life's impermanence told in the setting of an ostensibly cheery, annual summertime gathering of life long friends. The author also has an interesting commentary on the relationship of the artist to his/heraudience. Why is Elizabeth Taylor still so under appreciated???

  15. 7/10 or 7.5, good book but a bit childish (hard to explain - plot moves too fast at points, and obvious threats, baddies, recurring scenes, simple escapes etc). Really really good on creativity, and worthwhile reading

  16. Elizabeth Taylor herself said of this disturbing book " no wit, no warmth, no children, no irony, no perceptiveness." But the whole time I was reading it I was in a state of shock.

  17. Someone I admire said Elizabeth Taylor was an excellent writer who is not as well known as she deserves to be and having read this book I agree. There are some dazzling passages. The characters are complex and surprising (the little English town where the story unfolds emerges as one of the characters). And small point, but fun, I learned many new words for old things. Now I know that a drugget is a coarse carpet laid over a finer one in areas of high traffic, to protect the finer carpet. Unimpo [...]

  18. 1949. This short novel gave me some sense of the life of middle-class single Englishwomen of the period. Taylor makes explicit here and there through comments of characters how it is different for a woman than for a man. For instance, a single woman does not spend her holiday staying at a hotel [even in Britain:] but instead goes [as a paying guest:] to the home of some person of her acquaintance, in this case her former governess.The story is nicely self-contained; I mean that the whole story t [...]

  19. I first came across Taylor via François Ozon’s adaptation of her novel Angel, starring Romola Garai, which I reviewed for Videovista (see here) and liked. Prior to that, I’d not known there was a writer who shared a name with the famous actress. I later stumbled across a copy of Taylor’s Blaming, read it and enjoyed it… and so she became a name to look out for in charity shops. Which is where I found this copy of A Wreath of Roses. Camilla and Liz are visiting Liz’s ex-governess, Fran [...]

  20. The first two pages of this novel drew me into the remorseless boredom of waiting at a train station, then all of a sudden, the violent and deliberate loss of life. I found that unexpected and thus oddly thrilling. For some reason, I also thought Camilla and Richard were not mentioned by name until after the death, but rather by "she/her" and "he/him". This arrested my imagination; I felt it was an ingenious literary technique to convey how nameless strangers can abruptly be thrust into intimacy [...]

  21. A finely-tuned novel that inspects forensically the minutiae of ordinary lives. Taylor weaves beautifully a narrative of different perspectives, drifting from one to the other to create an impressionistic landscape, though occasionally perhaps becomes overly introspective giving too much reign to her characters' navel gazing. This is a dark little story, set post WW2 in a rural England licking its wounds, where a small group of characters gather in a provincial town – prim Camilla on the brink [...]

  22. A review of Elizabeth Taylor's Short Stories reminded me that I had a copy of a Game of Hide and Seek unread on my shelves. What fortune to find a writer like this that is new to me ad even greater luck to find a copy of this book amongst a box of books from my mother's shelves. It is a short novel. The writing is wonderful; descriptions are vivid and evocative. The novel is set in Post War provincial England and was first published in 1949; the characters face the timeless human dilemmas of lif [...]

  23. Sharply realized characterizations in this Taylor novel from 1949 with a darker undercurrent than I've found in her other books.Some of the very best passages deal with the now elderly painter and former governess Frances, at whose cottage two younger women have come for their accustomed summer holiday. Alone, with the door locked, she felt safe to paint and to be herself. To her, work was a loosening of will, a throwing down of defences. Sitting back, utterly malleable, her personality discarde [...]

  24. I adore Elizabeth Taylor's writing. She holds that proverbial mirror up to polite society and things otherwise ordinary become become intriguing and satisfying to read.This book is a little different - those ordinary people with their bitternesses and small town concerns are part of a story that may seem to focus on changing relationships, the nature of aging and lonliness and a mindfulness of our environment but which is actually suffused with real menace.It would be possible to 'spoil' the boo [...]

  25. Another understated tale of village life in Taylor's quiet style with little moments of truth, sadness, and beauty in virtually every sentence. I've been reading her NYRB and Virago editions but had to dig this out of deep storage in Brooklyn's Central Library after the great book blog mookseandgripes picked it for their 2015 year end list--not that I need a lot of pushing to read anything by this great writer.

  26. wonderful, evocative, beautifully written story which takes place in post WWII England. A story of friendship, love, change & loneliness. Not to be missed it will transport you to another time and place. the writing is exquisite .

  27. Some good writing, in fact excellent descriptions, but I found the plot disjointed and the characters, in the main unlikable and unbelievable. I was hoping for another Elizabeth Jane Howard as Elizabeth Taylor is having a bit of a resurgence but this book does not encourage me to read any others.

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