A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

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A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A superb look at the middle classes between the two world wars. To say that it put me in mind of Jane Austen is not ever-egging the pudding. Highly recommended
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1844086191

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Some time between the two world wars Harriet Claridge and Vesey Macmillan met. They were the children of friends and relatives of friends and somehow they grew up together, rubbed along despite the fact that Harriet was painfully shy and inarticulate and Vesey careless of people and irritating. But they fell in love. Well, in reality Harriet fell in love with Vesey, stole a photograph of him and when he went to Oxford she worshiped this whilst she waited for the letter which would never arrive.

A decade and a half later they meet again. By this time Harriet is married to Charles who's rather older than her but who is devoted to his wife and their daughter Betsy. Vesey is an actor – a second rate actor – living in boarding houses and working in various repertory theatres. He's a little needier now – or is it that he is as much in love with Harriet as she still is with him? Harriet is overcome and more than ready to forget her marriage despite knowing that Vesey cannot offer her any sort of future. There's no grand passion, just a rather tawdry affair destined not even to run its course.

I've heard Elizabeth Taylor compared to Jane Austen and I'll confess that my initial thought before I began reading A Game of Hide and Seek was that this was more than likely to be over-egging the pudding, but after reading the book in two sittings (and resenting having to put it down in the middle) I've revised my opinions. Elizabeth Taylor really should be read by a much wider audience.

There's a nod to Jane Austen's Persuasion but it would be going too far to call this a twentieth century reworking. The similarities are in the shrewd look at the nuances and foibles of the reasonably well-to-do middle classes, but even with the infuriating Vesey she's still affectionate and never cruel. Like Austen she looks at everyday life – the humdrum, the commonplace – and draws from it those very situations which make people what they are. There's Harriet's hoping against hope that Vesey will come to a dance, or Vesey's encouraging children from a vegetarian family to eat meat.

The characters come off the page fully formed. It's not just Vesey and Harriet, but her husband, Charles, doing his best despite being let down by all around him and his mother who is only too keen to point out what's happening. It's Betsy's schoolteacher who should have had a better average result rather than a star pupil if she was to keep her job.

The writing is a delight with not a word wasted. As I started reading I was jotting down notes about pieces I wanted to quote to you. Eventually I had so many that all I can do is tell you to read the book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Another overlooked writer whom we can recommend is Agnes Owens – we think you will appreciate her Complete Novellas.

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Buy A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor at Amazon.com.


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