51. A View of the Harbour, Elizabeth Taylor (1947)

When I first read this, I thought ‘how come I’ve never come across Elizabeth Taylor before?’. In my opinion she’s so much better than some of the more famous writers of her generation – but she was never mentioned when I was a student and I only read her because a friend practically glued a copy of this book to my hands. It’s exactly the sort of thing I love – a multi-viewpoint story of life in a small English town – and once you get the hang of what she’s up to (which took me a while – so persevere!) it’s totally addictive. I wanted A View of the Harbour to go on forever, and felt quite bereaved when it ended. Like most of Taylor’s books the novel is mostly about women, and it focuses on the domestic and romantic, which I guess explains why she gets overlooked. If I’ve made it sound gutless and whimsical, I should add that A View of the Harbour is extremely funny, poignant and cruel, and the prose, at times, achieves a symphonic brilliance. Taylor hated publicity – another reason why she remains somewhat obscure – and led a quiet domestic existence (her friend Elizabeth Jane Howard declined to write a biography because of ‘the lack of incident in Taylor’s life’) but she never wrote a bad book and this is her best.

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2 Comments

Filed under My top 100 novels

2 responses to “51. A View of the Harbour, Elizabeth Taylor (1947)

  1. David Benedict

    Now you’re talking. Hard to think of another writer so unobtrusively, quietly brilliant.

  2. Yes indeed. I love all her books but this one really stands out for me.

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