Guest Blogger Review Featuring Bookgirl’s Nightstand

For those of you who thought we had given up on our Guest Blogger Reviews, Iliana (aka Bookgirl) has kindly agreed to get us back on track. Iliana is clearly someone who has an eye for beautiful things, whether it’s her blog banner or her handmade books, she has a flare for color and design. You can check out some of her books on her blog or at her new Etsy shop. She also reads an eclectic assortment of books, so there’s often something for everyone on her blog.

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While I do enjoy the reading the newest books to hit the stands or anxiously await what my favorite authors are coming up with next, I can’t deny it feels so rewarding to discover a writer who as one reviewer said, is best known for not being known. And, who is this writer I’ve just discovered? Elizabeth Taylor.

I found out about this author via some book blogs I frequent, and what drew me to this author was that her books had for subject women’s domestic lives. Her writings, from what I have gathered, explore the feelings, routines and dreams of everyday women. I believe it is just as important to read novels about big events and big themes as more quiet books. Books such as these highlight the everyday, with such searing poignancy that you catch yourself re-reading lines or passages so as to reflect on what the author is saying.

I picked up Blaming, which was Taylor’s last novel published in 1976. This story is about Amy and her reluctant friendship with Martha. Amy and her husband have traveled to Istanbul to bring back some sense of normalcy to their lives. Nick has been ill and Amy thought that traveling would give Nick some of his life back but instead she feels sulky and testy most of the time. She reminds herself that what Nick needs is patience and caring but wonders if maybe Nick just needs a holiday from her.

Tragedy strikes though and Amy becomes a widow overnight. Stranded in a foreign country and without anyone. The only person that is offering her some help is Martha, an American writer who was also on the tour Nick and Amy were taking and had formed a friendship with Nick. Amy felt more reserved towards Martha but in her great moment of grief she does lean on Martha for some support.

Once Amy is back in England she finds that she doesn’t really want to continue her friendship with Martha, after all she wasn’t someone she would normally have befriended, but how can she extricate herself from this bond after Martha’s kindness. It will be hard for Amy to say no when Martha asks if she can visit her in England but she’ll delay the visit. Here’s a quote from just how much Amy struggled with her letter to Martha.

“ ‘I should love to see you here, and hope to.’ She paused in desperation, and then wrote, ‘It just so happens’ (that opening phrase of liars) “that I am off to stay with my son and daughter-in-law for a while. No specified time on either side, but it will be a change which perhaps I need. When I return, may I write again to ask you to come to my English house? You were good to me and for me, and your unselfishness I shall always remember.’ More like a farewell letter than one of promise. Tears often came to her eyes when writing insincere letters, and they came now for a moment.”

Lest you feel sorry for Martha, the writer shows us Martha’s own quirks and I can understand Amy better. I began to wonder just why these two women would remain friends. There are some other major characters in the book and it’s fascinating to see how grief changes a person and their relationships. I think the author handled that so well that I could believe in these characters and their actions. This was a novel that showed great awareness and depth.

Elizabeth Taylor was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912. Her first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, appeared in 1945 and was followed by 11 more. Some other titles include: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and A View of the Harbour.

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4 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Review Featuring Bookgirl’s Nightstand

  1. I’m just now part way through Keeping the House by Ellen Baker and after reading your review above, you may just find it to be enjoyable (kind of a “quiet” book also).

  2. Taylor is one of those writers I know I should read and I have several of her books in the ubiquitous TBR pile and yet, somehow, I’ve just never got round to it. Maybe I should start with this one (despite the fact that I normally like to work chronologically through a writer’s output) because I could really sympathise with Amy over her reluctance to have Martha visit. I’ve been in that position when someone I really didn’t want to stay has invited themselves – very difficult!

  3. Stephanie – I’m going to put Keeping the House on my list. I do like these quiet books. I feel like you really get to know the characters that way!
    Ann (Table Talk) – If it hadn’t been for book bloggers I don’t know how long it would have taken me to discover Taylor. And, I totally understand wanting to start with her first books. I forgot to mention that there is an afterword in the book from her daughter which perhaps even explains more about what the writer was getting at with this book. And, yes, I love visitors but sometimes it takes me a while to warm up to the idea 🙂

  4. Pingback: bookgirl’s nightstand | Blog Archive | 2008 Favorites

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