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Complete Short Stories (VMC) Paperback – 21 Jun 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (21 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844088405
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844088409
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 4.6 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Elizabeth Taylor is finally being recognised as an important British author: one of great subtlety, great compassion and great depth. (Sarah Waters)

Taylor has remarkable skill. In all the stories there is a peculiarly satisfying mixture of wit and generosity. Their human depth is such that they can be read again and again. (Margaret Drabble)

Taylor's writing is honed, even laconic, especially in dialogue. Her wit, while sharp, is buoyant. She focuses on the domestic as a theatre of secret barbarism ... These are Taylor's people, beautifully present and poignant as they play out the comedy of their lives. (Helen Dunmore The Times)

Must Reads: Taylor's wicked, subversive stories are a mordant delight. (Sunday Times)

Book Description

The first time Elizabeth Taylor's acclaimed short stories have been collected in one volume, and its publication marks the centenary of Elizabeth Taylor's birth.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Taylor was adept at charting the emotional games people play, and this book is packed with numerous permutations and combinations on the themes explored in her full length novels, plus much more. These pages testify to a unique imagination as much as her abilities to handle words - what perceptions, what understanding of human nature.
Especially impressive can be the shortest pieces, which are cleverly crafted character studies where conversations reveal the speakers' personalities: the verbal equivalent of minature portraits (at just 2 ½ pages, "Taking Mother Out" is a marvel of concision). Taylor often has these stories start in mid-conversation, and immediately presents how people behave toward each other (everyone fusses around a new mother in "The Light of Day"), showing the social conventions and customs we automatically fall into (the hospital visit in "Mothers"), and the ways of children (every parent would recognise the portrayal of the shopping excursion in "The Little Girl").
Not that this focus on behaviour and emotions means that Taylor lapses in her descriptions of settings when needed (it may be only four lines, but the first paragraph of "For Thine is the Power" succinctly conveys place and time).
Many readers will be surprised at these studies, for they represent a very different aspect of Taylor's creativity from the twisting, skilfully plotted narratives we know through her novels. One appreciates just how major a writer she was.
I have found this book as stimulating and absorbing as reading through the collected stories of Katherine Mansfield, and the complete stories of Flannery O'Connor. There is an emotional universe in here; in these pages I seem to recognise versions of individuals from my own life.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 21 Jun. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This wonderful edition of Elizabeth Taylor's short stories, with an interesting introduction by the author's daughter, includes not only those stories that have appeared in earlier collections, but also those which have previously only appeared in magazines, mostly the 'New Yorker'. Many of Elizabeth Taylor's stories have an autobiographical basis and she is known for writing about situations she was familiar and comfortable with, however, it is not entirely true that Taylor did not venture out of her comfort zone in her writing, as a few of the stories in this book show.

This complete collection contains over sixty short stories; the ones that are more widely known such as the marvellous 'Hester Lilly' which tells the story of a headmaster's sophisticated wife who suffers discomforting feelings of jealousy when her husband's young, gauche cousin comes to stay; 'The Devastating Boys' where an Oxfordshire couple invite two black boys from the East End to their home to give them an experience of life in the country - the boys cause a fair amount of upheaval, but bring unexpected pleasure and rewards; and a particular favourite of mine: 'Girl Reading' about a teenage girl, the daughter of a financially strapped widow, who goes to stay with a school friend from a much wealthier family, which is particularly good. However, there is also the very different 'The Fly Paper' (described by Taylor as being "rather horrible" whilst adding that she did not think anyone would really like it) which later became a rather chilling film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard Brown on 24 May 2013
Format: Paperback
Back in the days before Virago, in their green paperbacks, reissued the novels of Elizabeth Taylor, I would hunt for copies in secondhand bookshops, pouncing on them with glee (I did the same for Rosamond Lehmann's and Willa Cather's books). I lifted this heavy volume with more circumspection, having come across most of the stories before in slimmer volumes; but that was a long time ago, and I rightly guessed I could read them afresh with just as much pleasure. I mention this because it seems to me this compendium, so heavy in the hand, so intimidatingly comprehensive (64 stories equals quite a commitment), is aimed more at the devotee than the casual browser or the present buyer. That aside, it's very welcome: I've been reading one or two stories a night for the past few months and shall miss them now I've reached the end: her tone is consoling, her stories often leave you smiling even when tinged with sadness.

It's strange to think that these genteel English stories were written mainly for the American magazine market, they are so very much of their time and place. Transatlantic readers would have received an impression of post-war Britain set in unassuming houses among the middle- and lower-middle classes, in seaside boarding houses, in teashops and department stores, in quiet towns and villages, featuring unremarkable, hidden lives where small events take on great significance and where small betrayals and disappointments reverberate down the years. Perhaps in such a large collection the uniformity of tone, the small canvas on which she works, the lack of narrative surprise, can become a little monotonous, but these are easy, affecting reads that seldom leave you wanting more.
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