I shan’t present you with a photo of the book cover this time
because I don’t like the way these Elizabeth Taylor books have
been portrayed in the reissues. The photographs never show the
kind of picture I have of the characters—
Elizabeth Taylor–no, not that one—is the one who wrote one of
my favorite books: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. And I’ve gone
on and on about it frequently—here, for instance: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.
This author has been favorably compared to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and
Elizabeth Bowen and I think she has the perfect touch in writing about
an English woman of a certain age, a certain class–usually stuck in some
situation that is disagreeable.
In this book, Amy and her husband Nick, are traveling in Egypt and
they–(or Nick does) befriends an American woman named Martha. Amy
is bored with the guides and museums and history to be learned at each
site. But Nick is genuinely fascinated. Amy goes along, humoring him
because he is recovering from a lengthy illness. Martha also is taken
with all the details and she and Nick revel in each pillar and headstone.
Nick dies. Martha is kind to Amy. A little later, Martha suggests visiting
Amy back in England for a few days.
“Lolling back in her chair, steadily eating biscuits as if to satisfy a
long-felt need, Martha dropped crumbs onto her lap, and occasionally
brushed them off onto the carpet. She is going to be untidy about the
place, Amy was thinking. Two long days. She glanced up at the clock.
What could she do with her for all that time?”
How much exactly does Amy owe Martha? How much needs to be
repaid for some kindness given in a time of grieving?
Ms Taylor sprinkles in some tenseness with Amy’s family–her son
and his wife and their children. An old friend of Nick’s, Dr. Lloyd,
comes visiting to commiserate with Amy, having lost his own wife
The pages move along very nicely in this quiet but intense little
novel. It’s the last book the author wrote. Thankfully, I still have
a few to read.
Three buttons review: