Top positive review
48 people found this helpful
Journey into the interior
on 8 April 2003
Elizabeth Jane Howard, most recently famous for her quartet of bestsellers about the Cazalet family, is memorable for her subtlety and emotional intelligence. Her novels, fed by sensitive observation and unflinching, often painful honesty, are compellingly, page-turningly readable without losing one jot of sophistication. The author has lived a long life and known many luminaries of the literary scene. Something In Disguise was wrriten when she was in middle life, married to the great comic novelist Kingsley Amis and stepmother to Martin.
It deals with surprises. May, mother of two grown-up children, lost her husband during the Second World War and has misguidedly married again. Her second husband is, she thinks, merely difficult and cantankerous. As the story progresses, the reader—and May—will learn how much more sinister this bumbling old soldier really is.
The children, Oliver and Elizabeth, make their own discoveries during the course of the novel. Attractive, shallow Oliver finds himself falling for a girl who simply won't succumb to his easy charm; and shy Elizabeth, hiring herself out as a dinner party cook in London, meets the unlikely man who will transform and illuminate her future.
Most touching of all is Alice, hapless daughter of May's villainous husband. Escaping life at home by drifting into marriage with a hideously well observed philistine, her marital agonies are recorded with relentless comedy and a wealth of compassion.
As always with an Elizabeth Jane Howard novel, the characters are fully alive and the story grips as tightly as a thriller. This isn't, in my opinion, one of her best works—I'd recommend The Long View, The Beautiful Visit and After Julius—but, coming from her hand, it can't fail to charm, enlighten and absorb. She is a beautiful artist and, once encountered, vividly colours the memory.