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The Soul Of Kindness (VMC Book 627) [Kindle Edition]

Elizabeth Taylor , Philip Hensher
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £9.99
Kindle Price: £6.99 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
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Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

"Here I am!" Flora called to Richard as she went downstairs. For a second, Meg felt disloyalty. It occurred to her of a sudden that Flora was always saying that, and that it was in the tone of one giving a lovely present. She was bestowing herself.'

The soul of kindness is what Flora believes herself to be. Tall, blonde and beautiful, she appears to have everything under control -- her home, her baby, her husband Richard, her friend Meg, Kit, Meg's brother, who has always adored Flora, and Patrick the novelist and domestic pet. Only the bohemian painter Liz refuses to become a worshipper at the shrine.

Flora entrances them all, dangling visions of happiness and success before their spellbound eyes. All are bewitched by this golden tyrant, all conspire to protect her from what she really is. All, that is, except the clear-eyed Liz: it is left to her to show them that Flora's kindness is the sweetest poison of them all.

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Product Description


A wonderful novelist (JILLY COOPER)

How skilfully and with what peculiar exhilaration she negotiated the minefield of the human heart (JONATHAN KEATES)

An eye as sharply all-seeing as her prose-style is elegant -- even the humdrum becomes astonishing (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Brilliantly amusing (ROSAMOND LEHMANN)

Book Description

In this novel, first published in 1964, Elizabeth Taylor skilfully and subtly demonstrates the terrible danger of self-love, most deadly to those who live within its shadow.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 667 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; Reprint edition (2 Dec. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #62,881 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
It defeats me why Elizabeth Taylor isn't better-known today as to my mind she is one of the finest novelists of the mid-century.
I'd be hard pushed to say which is my favourite of her novels - she is so consistently excellent - but I agree with the reviewer above that this is a strong contender for the best.
Flora is tall, blonde, beautiful, perfect - and utterly unaware of the ultimately dangerous havoc she wreaks in other people's lives.
I love Elizabeth's Taylor's quiet writing and then ... her incisive, cuttingly-observant asides. Patrick, a middleaged homosexual, cherishes the 'nice streaks' in a selfish boy's nature ... and two words sum up a character. And there is no-one like Elizabeth Taylor to describe an English home counties autumn.

Perhaps it is fortunate that her books are not always easy to get hold of - I have been collecting them gradually secondhand and have now read all but two. And I shall be bereft when I reach the end. Nothing for it but to go back and read them all again.
Highly, highly recommended.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel for the epicurean 31 Jan. 2009
Elizabeth Taylor is an author little read, and indeed little known, in the US. I chanced upon her through the excellent Virago series, and now can't get enough of her subtle wit and beautifully reserved style.

Some readers may complain that "nothing ever happens" and there is "no character development" in her novels, but they are obviously not reading deeply enough. To be sure, Ms. Taylor writes about ordinary people in ordinary situations--her novels are sometimes referred to as "domestic"-- but she does so with such perception (sometimes devastingly so, as in this particular novel), that she always manages to hold the attention of discerning readers.

The "soul of kindness" in the novel is Flora, a woman tragically unaware of the disastrous effect her acts of "kindness" has on the people around her. She is so blind to her own shallowness, one can't help feeling sorry for her. Ms. Taylor paints the layers of her story with masterfully subtle colors, telling much of it through the eyes of the secondary characters, who are all wonderfully three-dimensional and familiar.

I highly recommend this novel, which I consider to be Ms. Taylor's finest.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this now! 2 Sept. 2010
By Elsk
I picked this up off someone else's bookshelf - and had to borrow it when I left because I was so engrossed. It's a book that says so much without spelling it out. It's a fairly straightforward story but what makes it compelling is the way she describes the characters and all the stuff going on under the surface. Her prose reads slightly formal, but this just helps create the world she's writing about. Taylor has a great sense of humour and it's an easy but satisfying read. It's been said before, but I can't believe she's relatively unknown today. Word of warning for this book: don't read the intro as it gives away a crucial plot point!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreconstructed Emma 5 May 2012
By Antenna TOP 100 REVIEWER
Beautiful, indulged, emotionally immature with a childlike reluctance to face up to the grimmer realities of life, Flora does not prove for me to be the manipulative monster implied in the publisher's blurb, but her good intentions certainly cause other people grief, if not exactly leading to hell.

Each chapter in this well-crafted novel reads like a short story in its own right, providing sharply observed descriptions of the characters, their thoughts and relationships and the socially conventional, class-conscious, uptight world of Britain around 1960. Everyone except Flora knows a man is gay, but cannot discuss it. If a man has a drink with a lonely female neighbour it should be concealed as evidence of an affair.

The book is perhaps more interesting now than when it was written because it captures a lost world of dense London fogs, middle class women who do not work once married, and have live-in housekeepers in the basement, a safe, dull society on the brink of being shaken by the Swinging Sixties, fast food, pop culture, media manipulation and rampant commercialisation. Yet, some things have not changed, like the tatty sights and smells round an underground station, or a typical English seafront.

Perhaps Elizabeth Taylor is no longer widely read and known since her largely middle class characters seem rather snobbish and dated, there is no overt sex and violence and the drama is subtle and understated with a focus on the ordinary events of daily life. However, the power of her deceptively simple prose is very striking - a satirical Barbara Pym meets Dorothy Parker, by turns funny and moving.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flora knows what's best for everybody 13 Dec. 2011
And somehow her friends' lives just rot away under her influence. Elizabeth Taylor is so subversive! You expect to be introduced to a set of characters who are all meeting challenges - surely the story will be how they overcome those challenges? Not a bit of it. Spoiler alerts... Flora encourages a woman to waste her life in a hopeless love for a gay man, while caring for her brother who - in Flora's opinion - is too good-looking and special for a proper job. I have an awful feeling that even Liz the artist is destroyed by Flora in the end. Must read it again.

She is very good on ambience and depressing dates in dreary self-service restaurants. We've all been there!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soul of Kindness
The 'soul of kindness' in Elizabeth Taylor's ninth novel is Flora, a golden-haired beauty, the much-loved only child of a widow, doted on by husband, Richard, adored by Kit, the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Susie B
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Bourgeois Novel
Taylor, Elizabeth. The Soul of Kindness

I'm not sure why, but Elizabeth Taylor the novelist (1912-1975) seems to be celebrated, if at all, as the most neglected... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. D. James
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliantly sets an example of six degrees connection. Well observed and written.
Published 3 months ago by O. Phelan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
love her writing, thoughtful
Published 8 months ago by Jo V.
3.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Taylor (1)
I was a little disappointed, but perhaps it just was not my kind of subject. The outlook was inclined to be suburban
Published 17 months ago by K. Way
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy
Absolutely beautifully observed and written; it is always a rediscovery to come back to Elizabeth Taylor, so observant of human frailties but so non-judgemental
Published on 21 Aug. 2013 by J MCEWAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Worth reading
Elizabeth Taylor always excellent. In my opinion not as good as 'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' Nevertheless wonderful insight and observations of human nature... Read more
Published on 1 July 2013 by Jill Alblas
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
This is Elizabeth Taylor in her most successful area: family life, people who one might know or have met - or even have in the family. Explored very sharply.
Published on 8 Jun. 2013 by Johnston
3.0 out of 5 stars Ending!
In the beginning the book appeared to have potential. It jogged along although the characters appeared bit wooden. Disappointing ending
Published on 5 May 2013 by Fran Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and atmospheric, but ultimately it went nowhere
I'd never heard of this author before we read this in our book club and I am 49 and well-read, so when I started I was quite surprised she was not better known as the book was... Read more
Published on 8 Jan. 2013 by G. Coates
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