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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 July 2012
Elizabeth Taylor was adept at charting the emotional games people play, and this book is packed with numerous permutations and combinations on the themes explored in her full length novels, plus much more. These pages testify to a unique imagination as much as her abilities to handle words - what perceptions, what understanding of human nature.
Especially impressive can be the shortest pieces, which are cleverly crafted character studies where conversations reveal the speakers' personalities: the verbal equivalent of minature portraits (at just 2 ½ pages, "Taking Mother Out" is a marvel of concision). Taylor often has these stories start in mid-conversation, and immediately presents how people behave toward each other (everyone fusses around a new mother in "The Light of Day"), showing the social conventions and customs we automatically fall into (the hospital visit in "Mothers"), and the ways of children (every parent would recognise the portrayal of the shopping excursion in "The Little Girl").
Not that this focus on behaviour and emotions means that Taylor lapses in her descriptions of settings when needed (it may be only four lines, but the first paragraph of "For Thine is the Power" succinctly conveys place and time).
Many readers will be surprised at these studies, for they represent a very different aspect of Taylor's creativity from the twisting, skilfully plotted narratives we know through her novels. One appreciates just how major a writer she was.
I have found this book as stimulating and absorbing as reading through the collected stories of Katherine Mansfield, and the complete stories of Flannery O'Connor. There is an emotional universe in here; in these pages I seem to recognise versions of individuals from my own life.
As for the details, there are 64 stories in this large thick volume, which is nearly 630 pages in all. Short stories they certainly are, the author quite adeptly squeezing psychological drama and pithy insights into a few pages. Most of the stories are 8 to 15 pages in length; although the first story, "Hester Lilly", is virtually a novella at 53 pages long.
As the book's descriptor explains, this compilation brings together the four books of stories published in Taylor's lifetime, plus several more added that had only appeared in magazines such as "The New Yorker".
The only drawback to this superb collection is the absence of prior publication details. The years that these stories were written in is nowhere listed, nor the magazines they where first publishing in; nor even the order they appeared in Taylor's previous four books of stories. This is a regrettable oversight, and will hamper efforts to encourage scholarship on this neglected author's work. Readers and scholars really do need to know the dates of stories (which are the earliest?, and which the latest?) in order to understand how this major author's fiction developed and strengthened; and, of course, to position them against the sequence of novels she wrote.

(PS. If you haven't read Elizabeth Taylor's novel A Wreath of Roses yet, then you must get that book, too. And Elizabeth Bowen's Collected Stories (Vintage classics) is also a must. For me they are five major stars as well.)
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on 18 November 2017
Excellent thanks
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on 13 July 2013
Every one of these stories is entertaining and thought provoking. Would appeal to anyone who enjoys a stylistically satisfying yarn.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 June 2012
This wonderful edition of Elizabeth Taylor's short stories, with an interesting introduction by the author's daughter, includes not only those stories that have appeared in earlier collections, but also those which have previously only appeared in magazines, mostly the 'New Yorker'. Many of Elizabeth Taylor's stories have an autobiographical basis and she is known for writing about situations she was familiar and comfortable with, however, it is not entirely true that Taylor did not venture out of her comfort zone in her writing, as a few of the stories in this book show.

This complete collection contains over sixty short stories; the ones that are more widely known such as the marvellous 'Hester Lilly' which tells the story of a headmaster's sophisticated wife who suffers discomforting feelings of jealousy when her husband's young, gauche cousin comes to stay; 'The Devastating Boys' where an Oxfordshire couple invite two black boys from the East End to their home to give them an experience of life in the country - the boys cause a fair amount of upheaval, but bring unexpected pleasure and rewards; and a particular favourite of mine: 'Girl Reading' about a teenage girl, the daughter of a financially strapped widow, who goes to stay with a school friend from a much wealthier family, which is particularly good. However, there is also the very different 'The Fly Paper' (described by Taylor as being "rather horrible" whilst adding that she did not think anyone would really like it) which later became a rather chilling film.

Elizabeth Taylor is a wonderful writer; she uses language with a subtleness and sensitivity and she is able to portray her characters and their situations with perception, compassion and humour; she describes the dynamics of middle-class family life in the mid twentieth century particularly well and she appears to have an intuitive understanding of the relationship between women and their children. Like most short story collections, some of these stories are more enjoyable than others, however this is an excellent collected edition to keep by you for when you have a few moments to yourself, but maybe not enough time to get involved in a full-length novel - keep it in the car, by the bedside or next to the sofa; download it on your Kindle or order the attractively covered paperback version, but do treat yourself to one. This is a collection that I shall read, re-read and recommend to friends and relations.

5 Stars.

Also recommended by the same author:The Soul of Kindness (Virago Modern Classics);A View Of The Harbour (Virago Modern Classics);Blaming (Virago Modern Classics) and The Sleeping Beauty
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 May 2013
Back in the days before Virago, in their green paperbacks, reissued the novels of Elizabeth Taylor, I would hunt for copies in secondhand bookshops, pouncing on them with glee (I did the same for Rosamond Lehmann's and Willa Cather's books). I lifted this heavy volume with more circumspection, having come across most of the stories before in slimmer volumes; but that was a long time ago, and I rightly guessed I could read them afresh with just as much pleasure. I mention this because it seems to me this compendium, so heavy in the hand, so intimidatingly comprehensive (64 stories equals quite a commitment), is aimed more at the devotee than the casual browser or the present buyer. That aside, it's very welcome: I've been reading one or two stories a night for the past few months and shall miss them now I've reached the end: her tone is consoling, her stories often leave you smiling even when tinged with sadness.

It's strange to think that these genteel English stories were written mainly for the American magazine market, they are so very much of their time and place. Transatlantic readers would have received an impression of post-war Britain set in unassuming houses among the middle- and lower-middle classes, in seaside boarding houses, in teashops and department stores, in quiet towns and villages, featuring unremarkable, hidden lives where small events take on great significance and where small betrayals and disappointments reverberate down the years. Perhaps in such a large collection the uniformity of tone, the small canvas on which she works, the lack of narrative surprise, can become a little monotonous, but these are easy, affecting reads that seldom leave you wanting more.

I'd like to see the cream of the stories, those most fully developed and mature, collected in a shorter volume, to show her at her very best - perhaps given the Folio Society treatment, with illustrations.

Taylor is being rediscovered for the second time since her death and is being recognised not just as 'a pleasing voice' (bit condescending that: it was often said of her) but as a major British author (a similar re-evaluation is happening to Daphne du Maurier). Those who want to find out more about her life could do no better than Nicola Beauman's 'The Other Elizabeth Taylor' (as the actor fades from history so the author grows in stature) which is a wonderful read (and contains some interesting surprises too).
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on 27 September 2012
This collection of short stories are beautifully written set pieces that touch on every human emotion. These witty, poignant, evocative and immensely readable narratives go deep into the heart of what make people tick, love, fall out of love and cope with families,friendships and relationships. I have wanted to read Taylor's work for a while, ever since I heard a review on the radio, and pleased I didn't hesitate any longer.
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on 31 August 2012
I have just started reading these stories and they are splendid. The previous reviewers have comprehensively covered the literature and the interesting introduction. In retrospect I would have enjoyed the stories more in a series of small volumes - this collection is bulky, heavy and not ideal for reading in bed, particularly if you have arthritis but the quality of the writing does merit 5 stars and the cumbersome book might not be an issue for many readers.
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on 9 November 2012
So far, I have adored the characters and situations Elizabeth Taylor has created; my frustration is that none of the stories has been extended to a full novel. Elizabeth Taylor's perception of the female character and her observation of the post-war(s) male is extraordinary and, so often, the characters have an unexpected. sense of humour, a saucy side, which feels so contemporary.

One of my Book Club members and I were keen to select this book for review, based on positive reviews in the press; we weren't successful because of the general antipathy towards short stories.

Elizabeth Taylor is a talented writer and it has been a pleasure to discover her
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on 9 September 2012
This book is a must for any fan of Elizabeth Taylor's work, either those familiar only with her novels or those who know both her novels and short stories. The main advantage of this book is that all the short stories are collected in one volume, so that one can read with a delicious sense of anticipation, knowing that all the stories will be there.
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on 9 September 2016
Elizabeth Taylor's Short Stories are a wonder to read. Her prose is liquid gold and her plots are perfection.
Characters are well well - rounded and totally believable. In my ' book' she ranks with the Best
The book came as promised in mint condition. E . Keth
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