Posts Tagged ‘A Wreath of Roses’

A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor ~ 1949. This edition: Penguin, 1984. Softcover. ISBN: 0-14-00.2587-1. 176 pages.

My rating: Easily a 9/10 for the writing, perhaps a bit less for the dark mood it engenders.

Well, no, I don’t really mean that. There are abundant gleams of light. As a middle-aged person myself, fast approaching the half century mark, much in this novel resonated with me, and I felt a strong sympathy and emotional kinship for all three of the female main characters, “maiden, woman, and crone”, as another reviewer referred to them.

*****

There are several excellent reviews on this early Elizabeth Taylor novel, only her fourth, which I’ve linked for your enjoyment below. Anything I have to say merely echoes what these others have said, so I won’t go into too much detail, or describe my response to this interesting novel except to say that I found it much more enthralling than expected.

Three women spend a summer holiday together year after year, but this visit highlights the inexorable march of time, and is one of those “years where everything changes” which happen to everyone from time to time; markers which we think of later in the context of “before” and “after.”

Frances, the eldest, owns the cottage where the three convene. A retired governess and a confirmed spinster, she has for years pursued a secondary career as a modestly successful painter. Liz, the youngest, was once Frances’ charge, and in the year past has married a much older clergyman and has borne a child, whose inclusion in the party is looked upon with something like apprehension by the adult trio. Camilla, a school secretary, is approaching middle-age; she too is a spinster, though not by choice; circumstances and her fastidious personality have left her out in the cold in the mating ritual, and her pride reinforces her smooth shell; she pretends not to mind her state, and the pretence is so finely wrought that she has begun to believe in it herself.

It is Camilla who has the most outwardly eventful time. Her journey to the cottage has been horribly punctuated by a suicide at the railway station; shaken out of her usual reserve, she has made the acquaintance of a handsome young man who turns out to be going to the same village. Claiming to be a writer on a trip of nostalgic research, it is soon apparent that Richard is not averse to weaving a web of lies about his past and present. Camilla is attracted to him and he returns her interest, to the concern of Frances and especially Liz, who sense something “off” in Richard’s manner and constantly shifting explanations.

All three of the friends are “paired up” as the summer progresses. Liz’s husband Arthur drops in from time to time, and Liz flits between her home and the cottage. Frances apprehensively prepares to meet a man who has been a long-time artistic patron and correspondent. Film director Morland Beddoes is himself uncertain as to whether the woman of his long-distance friendship will be the kindred spirit he yearns for.

As the various personalities clash with each other, self-analyze and readjust, the truth about Richard slowly becomes revealed, with deeply disturbing repercussions.

I must also add that Frances’ dog Hotchkiss is one of the most unpleasant canines I’ve yet met in literature. I suspect that Elizabeth Taylor was more of a cat person, as she uses feline comparisons in a rather favorable way in describing some of the characters, and incidentally gives a beautiful cameo appearance to a pregnant Siamese.

*****

Check out the following for more detail and some very thoughtful analyses of this work:

Bentley Rumble: A Wreath of Roses

Laura’s Musings: A Wreath of Roses

Buried in Print: A Wreath of Roses

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