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The Other Elizabeth Taylor Paperback – 23 Apr 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books; First Edition edition (23 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906462100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906462109
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 3.6 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 543,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Nicola Beauman, b. 1944, is the author of three previous books: A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-39, Cynthia Asquith (1987) and Morgan: a life of EM Forster (1993). In 1999 she founded Persephone Books.


Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
In the acknowledgments at the end of this book Nicola Beauman tells us that this biography was authorised by the late John Taylor and she was to quote from all published and unpublished copyright material. Because of the sensitivity of some of this material, which included a cache of letters between Elizabeth and her lover during the first years of her married life, which John Taylor was aware of, she felt 'it was inappropriate to publish the book while he was still alive'. The author also tells us that she submitted the manuscript to John and Elizabeth's son and daughter who were very 'angry and distressed' about the book and have asked to be disassociated from it.

This situation must pose a dilemma to any biographer. Nicola Beauman had permission from John Taylor to write this biography but as it has been some fifteen years in the making, one assumes that the children were perhaps not told of this projected book by their father or were hoping that perhaps it would never happen. This is pure conjecture on my part.

So what does a biographer do?

A few weeks ago I attended a play The Fascinating Mrs Inchbald at the Theatre Royal at Bury St Edmunds, a one hander, written and acted by the author. Elizabeth Inchbald was a well known actress and playwright of her time and a theme of the play was the guarding of her reputation. The point was made that the name of Mary Wollstonecraft, a friend of Mrs Inchbald, had been tarnished after her death because of the memoir written about her by her widower, Charles Godwin and that we remember more of the scandalous facts about her than anything else.
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Elizabeth Taylor, not to be confused with the film-star, ius like Henry Green, a novelists' novelist - steely, precise, unflashy, brilliantly observed. She was also obsessive about keeping her private life private which in our age has meant she has been almost forgotten.
Beauman, publisher of Persephone Books, had to wait fifteen years before being able to publish this biography, greatly to the dismay of her children. It's hard to wonder what they objected to. Her joining the Communist Party when she was supposed to be a genteel middle-class wife in Bucks? Her affair? There's much more here than readers of Tea At Mrs. Lippincote's might guess - though another Taylor gem, A Game of Hide and Seek is more appropriate.

Taylor's fiction is never comforting, but always shot through with wit and brilliance. She never got her just recognition unlike contemporaries such as Elizabeth Bowen. Beauman is almost too ardent a fan, but makes her case well, writing always with elegance and, one feels, considerable tact. She uncovers a treasure trove of letters to a former lover Ray Russell which (unlike those which her husband and the writer Robert Liddell faihtfully destroyed) allow us to see her as a person and a writer. Beauman is absolutely right to say that the persona carefully buil,t by Taylor in her lifetime has adversely affected her readership. This meticulous account, though no doubt not a full one, will do much to place her back where she belongs as one of the best novelists of her time.
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Format: Paperback
I've loved Elizabeth Taylor's books for nearly thirty years yet have known little about her, other than she was married and lived in Penn [an appropriate name].

I discovered this book quite by chance and read it pretty quickly. It's well written, honest and a wonderful book to refer to when reading Elizabeth's novels. I cannot fault this biography at all and am deeply grateful to Nicola Beauman for writing it [and having the persistence to see such a long project through to the end].

I am only sorry that Elizabeth's children are not happy about it's publication for it does nothing to detract from their mother's work and will [I hope] encourage more people to read her wonderful stories.

This is not a book full of revelations or scandal for Elizabeth's life wasn't like that. Her family took first place and everything else was secondary. But this book does help the reader to understand her novels, what inspired them and how she felt about them.

A fantastic book.
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Format: Paperback
I wanted to like this much more than I did. As other reviewers have noted, there appears to be a lack of objectivity here. Beauman almost apologises for Taylor rather than celebrating her work and achievements. I'm most surprised she dismisses Taylor's later works - particularly Mrs. Palfrey which is not just read because it was on a Booker shortlist. Beauman appears to miss the point of this great work all together. Taylor appears a very shadowy person here and obviously there wasn't a lot to go on, hence why Beauman tells us so much plot of Taylor's work. She also dwells repeatedly on the animosity of other writers which now feels very irrelevant particularly as most of those writers are now less well know than she is and we don't really understand the context to this. You could understand a contemporary biographer having to fight her corner as she was under appreciated then but now there's a whole new climate and readership to enthuse.

I'm not sure that a chronological approach of Taylor's life works: there's a lot of repetition. I kept going because I admire Taylor's work so much and in her novels we recognise her daughter's delightful description of, "Her kindness, passionate desire to see people treated fairly, wonderful sense of humour..." which somehow is never conveyed in this account of her.
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