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Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) Paperback – 6 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844083071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844083077
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Jane Austen, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Bowen - soul-sisters all (Anne Tyler)

One of the most underrated novelists of the twentieth century (Antonia Fraser)

I envy those readers who are coming to her work for the first time. Theirs will be an unexpected pleasure (Paul Bailey)

Her stories remain with one, indelibly, as though they had been some turning point in one's own experience (Elizabeth Bowen)

Book Description

*A classic tale of fantasy and self-delusion from one of the most acclaimed British novelists of the twentieth century

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Graham Watson on 29 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Taylor is one of English literature's best kept secrets; her shrewd, observant novels of human frailty have won her a small but devoted readership and 'Angel' is held by many as their favourite of her books.
Spurred on by loneliness and desperation, the young and staunchly determined Angelica Deverell draws on her own naïve perceptions of literature to produce what she thinks are masterpieces. Refusing to believe herself to be anything less than a genius, she disregards her publisher's attempts to restrain her high-flown prose and clumsy syntax and embarks on a starry career as a romantic novelist. Her books are bestsellers - despite being rubbished by critics - and Angel's uncompromisingly high view of herself is vindicated. Her success, however, spells dissatisfaction for those who tolerate her as her behaviour grows more outrageous and inconsiderate.

Elizabeth Taylor charts Angel's spectacular rise and gradual fall with a devastating eye for ironic detail. The intentions, desires and frustrations of Angelica and those around her are conveyed with the lightest touch. The fluctuating line between Angel's astounding arrogance and her unspoken terrified hopes, would, in the hands of a lesser writer have become a farce, or at the very least a satire. Taylor sees all and judges not.
The novel is moving, humane and compelling. Read it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By H. M. Holt on 24 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Angelica Deverell, otherwise known as Angel, is one of those characters you love to hate and I think Elizabeth Taylor must have had a lot of fun writing this book. Unusually for one of Taylor's novels, the story covers Angel's life from when she starts to write her first book at 15 all the way through to old age. Unlike Taylor, Angel is a terrible writer yet, also unlike Taylor, her books are remarkably popular.

This is Angel's publishers' reaction to her first book:

'Gilbright and Brace had been divided, as their readers' reports had been. Willie Brace had worn his guts thin with laughing, he said. The Lady Irania was his favourite party-piece and he mocked at his partner's defence of it in his own version of Angel's language.

"Kindly raise your coruscating beard from those iridescent pages of shimmering tosh and permit your mordant thoughts to dwell for one mordant moment on us perishing in the coruscating workhouse, which is where we shall without a doubt find ourselves, among the so-called denizens of deep-fraught penury. Ask yourself - nay, go so far as to enquire of yourself - how do we stand by such brilliant balderdash and live, nay, not only live, but exist too..."

"You overdo those 'nays'," said Theo Gilbright. "She does not."

"There's a 'nay' on every page. M'wife counted them."'

Angel's character matches her writing: she's vain, completely without empathy or humour, unable to accept any criticism or to see criticism as anything other than a personal attack, a self-proclaimed lover of animals and yet she doesn't properly care for or control the pets she owns. Angel is a bit of a monster and seems to live mostly in the world she has created inside her head.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By GlynLuke TOP 100 REVIEWER on 21 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Apart from Andrea Camilleri, the superb Sicilian writer of boisterous crime novels, my happiest discovery in the last year or two has been the once well-known novelist Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975). Having read the beautifully written A View Of The Harbour, I picked up Angel the other day, as it seemed about time I read another of this absurdly underrated author`s books.
What a wonderfully witty, sad, relentless and sly novel. Other reviewers on this page have given enough synopses, so I won`t rehash the plot. But in the character of Angel herself, Taylor created a genuine monster, an often heartless, egotistical, misanthropic, myopic, selfish bitch. And yet, the author being the great writer I believe she is - in the tradition of the subtler, `quieter` English novelists - she manages to persuade us, through her art, that the story of Angel is worth a 250-page novel and our time. This it most certainly is.
I got the impression, the more I read, that Taylor had had a ball writing this strange tale. She gives Angel virtually no redeeming features at all (even her much vaunted love of animals is sentimental, and a corollary to her lack of love for her own kind) but Angel`s, and the novel`s, saving grace, aside from the sheer precision of its composition, is the few chinks in her armour we are vouchsafed, such as when, later in her eccentric, deluded life, she admits she longs for a kind word. This woman incapable of love needs just that, and, against all odds, one`s heart goes out.
I have never, in fiction, met anyone quite like Angel. One can think of many monsters in novels of various kinds: Dickens`s Uriah Heep, Conan Doyle`s Charles Augustus Milverton, Iago...but they are recognisably human, however grotesque, with their vulnerabilities on show, consciously or otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 7 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
This remarkable novel plots out the life of an Edwardian eccentric who attempts to shutter out the real world and live in her own fantasy for nearly 50 years. This is a sophisticated story - the novel is written with great insight into (and affection for) the generation that came of age just before the Great War, and the hopes that were dashed. There is a mounting sadness about lost innocence in these pages.

That said, "Angel" is a superlative work, and Taylor's longest and most complex book, charting out the entire life for a fictional writer from the age of 15 until her late 60s.

This includes the passage and development of assorted relationships, including those with her mother, her best friend, husband, publisher, a servant, and a neighbour. The story begins when Queen Victoria has just died, takes us through the First World War, the heady days of the 1920s, the gloomy 30s, and the Second World War, finishing in the bitter winter of 1949/50.

The central character, Angelica "Angel" Daverell, is a writer of the same generation as Edith Sitwell, and much about her manner and style of dress very much brings Sitwell to mind. Assorted aspects of her way of life also seem to have emerged from Sitwell's book English Eccentrics.

Of course, Taylor's fans will immediately realise that "Angel" breaks the format of most of her novels, which are set in the 1940s, 50s or 60s, and follow events over a few months or weeks. To give plausibility to this more ambitious work, Taylor has put immense effort into her descriptive details of what was historical material. It is carried out superbly.
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