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4.2 out of 5 stars16
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 1 December 2008
When I finished my first Elizabeth Taylor - I only discovered her a few months ago - I immediately set out to read
everything she has written. She is always so brilliantly observant and it seems she is incapable of writing even
a single jarring word.
This book is about Kate, a wealthy widow who marries a purposeless, feckless charmer ten years younger than herself. Dermot didn't marry her for her money; he does love her, or thinks he does, but how long can such a marriage last? Elizabeth Taylor's talent is to make you sympathise with Dermot, too; his feeble attempts to find work, his lack of any self-respect, his awkwardness with his wife's friends whose literary allusions soar over his head, his wretched boredom during an evening of classical music. Their marriage is more like a tolerant mother and son relationship with passionate sex thrown in ... and indeed Dermot (whose hinterland is fast cars, pubs and television) has far more in common with Kate's son.
The end of the book - and Kate's return to her old, sedate Home Counties life - is quite shocking.
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on 28 July 2012
What a brilliant writer Elizabeth Taylor was. I am so glad that she is having a revival, she richly deserves it. This book was first published in 1961 and really does describe life as it was in those days. I know, I was there! Full of wit and humour, lovely conversations. The heroine is Kate, a charming widow who has recently married Dermot, who is 10 years younger than herself. He has moved into Kate's family home and joins her son Tom, daughter Lou, and her Aunt Ethel. Dermot's mother Edwina is a friend of Kate. Kate visits her, and she visits the family home. There are some wonderful scenes involving this amusing family. Here's a lovely quote. Kate is speaking. 'It's strange how sympathetic one can be to young lovers in literature and yet react so irritably to them in real life. Wouldn't one fend off Romeo from one's own daughter? I wouldn't have him within a mile of Lou if I had any say in it, the unstable youth. What behaviour! And that naughty, forward girl.'

I have to admit that I did not read this new Virago Modern Classics edition. I needed to read it in a copy printed at the time as it was all part of the scene. But here it is for those who do not have an original copy. Do read it: it is beautifully crafted, thoroughly enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2009
Many have told me that I should read the books of Elizabeth Taylor - an author I'd not heard of until the publication of Nicola Beauman's recent biography The Other Elizabeth Taylor by the wonderful Persephone Books. I picked up this particular one for its striking cover photo, and was told by pal Helen, that it was about a woman who marries a much younger man - a toy boy! - well that sold it to me instantly.

Published in 1961, it follows one summer in the lives of a family living in the Thames Valley, with 'The View' of Windsor castle visible in the far distance. This is already prime commuter belt - every day the men go off to work on the train to their jobs in the city - well, everyone except Dermot that is. He is the young Irish thirty-something husband of forty-something well-off widow Kate. They live in some comfort with Kate's sixteen year old daughter Louisa and twenty-two year old son Tom, her Aunt Ethel, and looked after by cook Mrs Meacock. As the novel opens, Kate is on a duty visit to her new mother-in-law, Edwina, up in London for the day. Edwina is always trying to find a job for her youngest, who has never been able to settle at anything or anyone until he fell in love with Kate.

In the first half of the movel we find out what makes them all tick - and frankly, it's all about sex. Kate with her younger husband, Tom with his girlfriends, and Louisa's growing awareness and crush on the young curate in the village. Aunt Ethel watches all these mostly repressed emotions and assesses it in her letters to her friend Gertrude - "When the sex goes Kate will think him no bargain".

Then the Thorntons return from abroad. The Thorntons, Charles and Dorothea, were Kate and her first husband Alan's best friends, and Tom had a thing for Minty, their daughter. Charles' wife died and Kate is keen to make them feel at home again now they're back in England. There are bound to be problems - as three's a crowd - Charles and Kate are the same age, whereas Dermot is closer to the children in age and sometimes, outlook.

"They were walking in circles around each other, Kate thought - both Dermot and Charles. When she had introduced them, Dermot had shaken hands with an air of boyish respect, almost adding 'Sir' to his greeting, and Charles seemed to try and avoid looking at him or showing more than ordinary interest. Although he had not met him before, even as far away as Bahrain he had heard stories, and Kate, writing to tell him of her marriage, had done so in a defensive strain, as if an explanation were due and she could think of no very good one."

The story is mainly told from Kate's point of view, and we hear not only her voice but her thoughts also - the two are often opposite. In that terribly repressed middle-class way, everyone says one thing and means another. The author takes a scalpel to these relationships and dissects them with sensitivity and wit, bringing things to a climax with great skill. I can safely say this novel made an instant fan of me, and I wonder why I never discovered her before
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on 9 December 2015
On my latest rereading, it struck me how Pymish this novel is, with its curate, parish workers and jumble sale. However, when the curate dines with the Heron family, he is given not chicken, as in a Barbara Pym novel, but turkey – which is “off.” This is one of many awkward social situations in the novel.
The marriage of Kate and Dermot Heron is itself quite awkward, as he is her second husband and several years younger than she is, so naturally he is suspected of having married her for her money. He is also somewhat unsatisfactory, being unable to settle to a normal kind of job like their neighbours in the Thames Valley, who commute to London every day. But we are told indirectly that he was very brave during the war, and he is very bonhomous, as P.G. Wodehouse would have said; great company, especially if one likes a drink.
Many of the characters are dissatisfied with their lives. Tom, Kate’s twenty-something son, hates his job at his grandfather’s factory, where he has had to start on the factory floor. His Spanish girlfriend Ignazia hates everything about England and her job as a maid. Kate’s teenage daughter Louisa is fond of the curate, which is difficult. The Herons’ cook, Mrs Meacock, becomes tired of her position and longs for the days of her American employers, who were happy to let her garnish everything with fruit.
Aunt Ethel, rather a bore to the family but a source of delight to the reader, must be a devotee of health guru Gaylord Hauser; she is forever taking tablets of desiccated liver and handfuls of vitamin pills. She also takes a great interest in the relationship of Kate and Dermot, especially in “the physical side” of it. Her letters about it to her old friend, another maiden lady, are hilarious. This is a humorous aspect of the fact that every one is watching Kate and Dermot, waiting for something to go wrong.
Back to the neighbourhood after some years come Charles, an old friend of Kate and her first husband, and his daughter Araminta, who has grown up to be a very sophisticated young woman who can cause chaos. Charles gives rise to my favourite awkward moment with an allusion to “The Spoils of Poynton” which points up the apparent unsuitability of the Heron marriage.
This is all told with Tayloresque subtlety, elegance and humour.
This is a review of my own copy, published by World Books in 1962.
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2012
I will not outline the plot as other reviewers have already done so. I first encountered Elizabeth Taylor at the end of last year when two friends recommended Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. What a revelation! It was one of the best books I have ever read, and made me want to read everything Elizabeth Taylor wrote. I must say that so far it seems as though I started with the best. Well written though this is, it lacks the wit, economy, and pathos of Mrs Palfrey.

What Taylor was able to do though, was to pinpoint the disparity between thoughts and words, words and actions, and her observations of domestic inter-relatonships are second to none.

Each character is well drawn and absorbing in their own right, down to Aunt Ethel (a wonderful creation) and dear little Lou, the school-age daughter of Kate.

I had no idea how Taylor was going to resolve the increasing difficulties between the main characters but she comes up with a clever and unexpected solution.

Had I not been measuring this against Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont it might just have squeezed five stars, but it is not nearly as perfect as that novel was.
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on 8 May 2013
As an avid fan of Elizabeth Taylor, this is one of her most evocative reads. Her description is always so visual, her characters believable, sometimes downright horrible too!
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on 17 November 2013
I really liked this book. Elizabeth Taylor first came to my attention as a writer of short stories (where she excels) and In a Summer Season has this same 'short story' quality. The writing is exquisite, the word pictures that she paints are vivid and I found myself transported to the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of the Thames Valley in the fifties. Its a fabulous piece of writing - but don't expect a ripping yarn.
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on 2 September 2012
An evocative novel of a time gone by. Taylor is wonderful at setting the scene- I really enjoyed this book and shall be reading more of the author's books.
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on 5 April 2016
One of the greatest British novelists of the twentieth century - it's time she was recognised.
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on 20 November 2013
I first encountered Elizabeth Taylor when I saw the film of Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont and then read the book. Whilst In a Summer Season is an excellent read, I did not find it as good as Mrs Palfrey. I would, however, recommend it to friends who enjoy a well drawn and well chacterised book. Elizabeth Taylor never fails to satisfy.
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