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A Game of Hide and Seek (New York Review Books Classics)by Elizabeth Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
The mid-twentieth century British novelist Elizabeth Taylor
numbered among her admirers Elizabeth Bowen, Ivy Compton-
Burnett, and Kingsley Amis. She also regularly published stories
in The New Yorker for close to two decades. For all that, her
work, as steely as it is delicate, remains the secret of a small
number of intensely devoted readers.
The publication of her finest novel, A Game of Hide and Seek,
long unavailable in the United States, should help to change
that. This is an unabashed love story, capturing all the uncertainty
and inevitability and deceptiveness of true love, tracking
the shifting currents of emotional life, and never yielding to
melodrama. Set in Britain between the wars, a time of transition
between old convention and new ways, the book has for a
heroine Harriet, the only child of a suffragette, whom we meet
as a shy and domestic and not especially smart or pretty girl.
At eighteen she falls in love with Vesey, but after Vesey must
go away, she marries another man, Charles, and bears a child.
Then Vesey returns.
Love is at the center of the book, but so too is Taylor’s extraordinary
knack for depicting characters. The minor figures in
the book—from Harriet’s mother’s friend Caroline, with her
progressive politics, to Charles, his coworkers, and his mother,
to Betsy with her schoolgirl crush on her Greek teacher—are as
memorable as the passion and heartache of Harriet and Vesey.
Harriet and Vesey meet when they are teenagers, and their love is as intense and instantaneous as it is innocent. But they are young. All life still lies ahead. Vesey heads off hopefully to pursue a career as an actor. Harriet marries and has a child, becoming a settled member of suburban society. And then Vesey returns, the worse for wear, and with him the love whose memory they have both sentimentally cherished, and even after so much has happened it cannot be denied. But things are not at all as they used to be. Love, it seems, is hardly designed to survive life.
One of the finest twentieth-century English novelists, Elizabeth Taylor, like her contemporaries Graham Greene, Richard Yates, and Michelangelo Antonioni, was a connoisseur of the modern world’s forsaken zones. Her characters are real, people caught out by their own desires and decisions, and they demand our attention. The be-stilled suburban backwaters she sets out to explore shimmer in her books with the punishing clarity of a desert mirage.
About the Author
Elizabeth Taylor (1912–1975) was an English short-story writer
and novelist. Her first novel, At Mrs Lippincote’s, was published
in 1945 and was followed by eleven more, along with five
volumes of short stories and a children’s book, Mossy Trotter.
Caleb Crain is the author of American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation.
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