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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark masterpiece...
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 nave perceptions of literature to...
Published on 29 Jan 2005 by Graham Watson

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A truly horrible heroine
After reading several recommendations for Elizabeth Taylor books I decided to give Angel a go. This is the story of an arrogant young girl who lives in her imagination rather that face up to her dull life living with her mother above a grocers shop. As an escape she starts writing novels and against all odds they are huge success despite their overblown style. Angel...
Published on 16 Jan 2008 by Helenbookworm


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark masterpiece..., 29 Jan 2005
By 
Graham Watson (Glasgow, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 nave 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angels & monsters, 21 Jun 2011
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (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. Angel admits no falliblity, no self-awareness at all. Somehow, Taylor manages to still make us care, and find this stern oddball of a woman worth troubling about. Yes, of course this is partly a novel about writers, publishers and critics, but I think that aspect of the story can be overplayed. This is also surely a book about some kind of rebel, if a dislikeable, surly, humourless one. Angel (and the novel itself) makes us look at the world from a rarely seen perspective, that of an unconsciously vulnerable, ultimately tragic woman - tragic to us if not to herself - whose world is centered purely on her own demands and desires. But we read on. And yes, we do care. Why? Because Taylor is such a cunning and subtle novelist, whose prose comes to be as much a character as Angel herself.
This, after all, is what all writers worth the name are able to do.
I was taken aback, depressed, impressed, saddened, amused and bemused by this unique saga, and I hope the novels of Elizabeth Taylor - in their excellently presented reissues from Virago Press - become widely read, as they most definitely deserve to be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of dark humour and sparkling writing, 24 July 2012
By 
H. M. Holt "souloftherose" (Tring, Herts) - See all my reviews
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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.

This book is filled with dark humour so although I don't think this was Elizabeth Taylor's best novel, for me, it was certainly her funniest. As Hilary Mantel writes in the introduction of the new Virago edition of Angel (Virago Modern Classics): "Angel is a book in which an accomplished, deft and somewhat underrated writer has a great deal of fun at the expense of a crass, graceless and wildly overpaid one."
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A truly horrible heroine, 16 Jan 2008
By 
Helenbookworm (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (Paperback)
After reading several recommendations for Elizabeth Taylor books I decided to give Angel a go. This is the story of an arrogant young girl who lives in her imagination rather that face up to her dull life living with her mother above a grocers shop. As an escape she starts writing novels and against all odds they are huge success despite their overblown style. Angel clearly thinks that she is one of the most talented authors of her generation but she is widely derided by the critics.

This novel is designed to be darkly funny and there is much humour to be had from Angel's delusions of talent but I did struggled with the fact that the she had no redeeming features at all. Taylor shows a woman who is completely uninterested in the outside world unless it directly affects her. While this is deliberate it means the book has a slightly claustrophobic and narrow feel to it. Most of the characters were a little one dimensional though I did love Marvell the gardener who is a masterpiece. All in all I am glad that I read the book but it will not go down as one of my favourites.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From time to time there was a terrible sound in her chest, as if some ancient clock were gathering itself to strike, 20 April 2011
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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Angel grows up, a grocer's daughter, with a monstrously inflated sense of her own talents and importance. She is lucky in those who indulge her - perhaps not so lucky in love. From the beginning of this novel we are faced with a feeling of bewilderment. What exactly to make of this fantasist who muddles her own origins and takes on those of others for aggrandisement? She writes atrociously bad novels, but a certain kind of woman loves them, though towards the end of her career and on a definite downslope, we learn that, "...only the elderly or middle-aged had ever read them." Nevertheless, she earned a certain kind of notoriety for the scandals she hinted at. Imagine, perhaps Marie Corelli laced with something a little more specific, though never physically specific.

Lucky Angel, to find a woman who is willing to sacrifice her own life-chances to serve this inflated authoress, living with her and managing her household, and lucky again to find publishers who are cynical enough to publish her output and even feel a certain patriarchal pride and protectiveness towards her. But nothing can be done for her as the inevitable decline begins. A good-natured offer of money from an old friend is rejected in outrage.

Tremendously engaging, truly appalling, righteously ridiculous, this is a story of the kind of person who, today, could barely exist. Trying to find a modern-day figure to compare to Angel, I could only think of someone like Jordan - sound business-woman producing tawdry rubbish for the mindless today, but one hesitates to think of what decline will do to all her accoutrements. This novel is a kind of satire, which is fitting and right with such an ugly subject. Brilliantly achieved satire with a touch of nostalgia for an age when women who wrote were lady writers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uncomfortable read, but that's OK!, 25 May 2014
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This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (Paperback)
With an introduction by Hilary Mantel and having read a number of other of Elizabeth Taylor’s novels and short stories I was enthusiastic about this book. And I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable read about a wholly dislikeable person, but it’s well-written, its sense of place and time is awesome and its secondary characters are deftly drawn. What has stayed with me more, however, is that feeling that destiny never quite lives up to expectations and that it takes a person of immeasurable courage or self-delusion not to mind about this. I hope one day to be the former!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Edwardian eccentric (is Angel based on Edith Sitwell?), 7 Oct 2012
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Under that passionate inventiveness and romanticism and ignorance, I sometimes noticed shrewdness and suspicion.", 5 July 2012
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (Paperback)
Those who have loved author Elizabeth Taylor's Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (1971) will also be fascinated by Angel (1957). Less subtle in its black humor and obvious satire, Angel will strike chords among all writers and lovers of writing who have ever fantasized about producing a blockbuster novel, or even a moderately successful one. Taylor (1912 - 1975) lived her own life in relative obscurity, admired and praised by a small group of literati, including Barbara Pym, Ivy Compton-Burnett, and Robert Liddell, but she is now being republished by New York Review Books, and contemporary lovers of clever writing will celebrate this darkly humorous vision of what it takes to be a successful author of popular novels and her wry insights into why popular fame often fades.

In 1900, Angel Deverell, fifteen, lives with her mother above the family grocery store in Norley. Emotionally, however, she lives on a completely different plane, imagining a life in which she is elegant, successful, admired by all, and, of course, wealthy beyond her most fervent dreams. Her mother and her aunt have made enormous sacrifices so that she can attend a private school and get the kind of education which might allow her to live a different sort of life from theirs, but Angel decides she has had enough and leaves to finish writing a romantic novel, The Lady Urania, on which she works almost around the clock. When she finds a publisher, he wants Angel to make some small changes to make the book more salable (such as giving the Duchess of Devonshire a fictional name), but Angel risks all and says "No." Eventually, the publisher accedes to her demands, and the book is a huge popular success.

Writing a bestseller a year for the next five or six years, Angel becomes wealthy enough by the age of twenty to move from the grocery store to The Birches at Alderhurst. Eventually, she meets Nora, the poetry-writing niece of Lord Norley, who becomes her companion, and her brother Esme, a handsome rotter who gambles, toys with the affections of young women, and lives only for himself, the male equivalent of Angel herself. As Angel's story continues with its ups and downs for forty more years, her personal life and her literary life experience dramatic changes. Always front and center in her focus - after herself, of course - is Paradise House, where her aunt once worked, the symbol of the aristocratic lifestyle Angel has sought from the beginning of her life.

Written in the middle of Taylor's career, Angel sometimes feels like the kind of romantic melodrama that Angel herself writes, and lovers of serious literary fiction may be surprised by that style, at least at the beginning. Taylor is clearly mimicking Angel's own style, however, to give added irony and satire to her depiction of this completely egocentric character, who wants only one thing, her own happiness. Such a focus can become tiring, since it allows for very little character development, and Angel remains one-sided and shallow, unconcerned with the everyday niceties that make social life successful. As her fortunes change over more than forty years, Angel remains resolute, and it is in her resolve that she becomes more than just a satiric main character and becomes almost admirable. Similar to Barbara Pym, Penelope Lively, Alice Thomas Ellis, and Jane Gardam, Elizabeth Taylor may finally be getting the literary attention she deserves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My First Elizabeth Taylor Book, 30 Jun 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (Paperback)
A big thank you must go to 'monica', a fellow reviewer and participant in the forums on this site. I had never read any of Elizabeth Taylor's books before, but after she had mentioned this one in a discussion late last year I decided to get it. Like a lot of people I have got piles of books to be read on the floor and a pile on my kindle as well, so it has taken me a long time to get round to this.

Angelica Deverell, the Angel of the title is determined to become a writer. She is a liar and not very pleasant person to start off with, but when she becomes a best selling author she becomes even worse. Like lots of best selling authors though, on the literary side she isn't very good and is not liked by the critics, however the public can't get enough of her.

This story is darkly funny as we follow the obnoxious Angel through her life. Elizabeth Taylor would have known about authors such as Angel, and we all know about the snobbishness that goes on in the literary world, where an author might not write brilliantly but manages to catch the public's imagination. It is Angel and her over bearing character though that draws you into this tale and holds your attention. She isn't likeable but in a way she is one of those characters that you can't get enough of.

This kindle edition I am afraid does currently have more than an average number of typos, which hopefully the publisher will sort out and release an update for us all. After reading this though, I will be getting another Taylor book.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, Amusing, Light-Hearted Parody of the Publishing World, 3 July 2006
By 
Christina (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) (Paperback)
The life and times of a famous author

This is a lovely book to read on holiday or whilst travelling. It is a light-hearted dig at authors, readers, publishers and most vitriolically, of critics. Elizabeth Taylor is a fine writer with an exquisite turn of self-deprecation and devastating humour. You have the sense Taylor is either writing about herself or is secretly enjoying a joke at another author's expense. Taylor even laughs at the pretentiousness of the art world. Be that as it may, the protagonist, Angel, is completely endearing for all her extreme self-confidence and haughty self-centredness. As an example, in one scene, Angel's fierce Staffordshire bull terrier (_) Sultan, attacks a little Yorkshire terrier (_?) and, in fact, kills it. Rather than apologising to the hapless owner, whose dog it was, Angel frostily tells the owner that she should have kept the dog under control and totters off with as much dignity and pride that she can muster (whilst taking a wrong turning).

As a newly published author, Angel fantasises creating a novel preparing dreadful humiliations and a painful death for one of her critics. What writer has not had that fantasy!? In all, it is excruciatingly funny. It is set in the early part of C20 and has an air of nostalgia and ruefulness that brings to mind the style of Jane Gardam in her recent book, _Old Filth_.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book. Elizabeth Taylor has an economically light way of writing that is at the same time both incisive and cruel, but yet charming - and thoroughly enjoyable!
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Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC)
Angel: A Virago Modern Classic (VMC) by Elizabeth Taylor (Paperback - 6 April 2006)
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