Shop now Shop now Shop now Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
14
4.4 out of 5 stars
5 star
8
4 star
4
3 star
2
2 star
0
1 star
0
Format: Kindle Edition|Change
Price:£6.99
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 30 July 2009
A strange and chilling novel by Elizabeth Taylor, very different from any of her others: 'Beauty and corruption touch us - at the same time, in the same place ...always the two going hand in hand.'
Camilla is a gauche spinster, on the brink of middle age, who started life on the wrong footing and never got going, never launched herself into love or marriage. Her friend Liz - who allows herself second chances at what she doesn't get right first time - is shakily married to a slightly pompous vicar, but their relationship steadies itself; it isn't perfect, but grows more solid as an institution. The two women are on a week's holiday staying with Liz's old governess.
Desperate for something to happen to her, Camilla begins an incongruous liaison with the only man on the horizon, a handsome liar with empty eyes who is staying seemingly aimlessly in a local hotel ... And the ending is more chilling than anything I could have expected from Elizabeth Taylor.
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 28 November 2011
First published in 1949, Elizabeth Taylor's 'A Wreath of Roses' is the tale of three women: Camilla, Liz and Frances. The story focuses mainly on Camilla, an unmarried school secretary with her youth behind her, worrying that life is passing her by. The novel is set in an English village during a blisteringly hot summer where Camilla and Liz, an old school friend, spend a month in the country in the home of Frances, Liz's ex-governess. Liz, married to a vicar, has recently given birth to their first son and is finding married life and motherhood somewhat different to how she had imagined. Frances, having given up teaching is now indulging in her passion for art and when she is not painting in her garden studio, she spends her time playing her piano with gusto and abandonment. With both Liz and Frances taken up with their own private lives and worries, Camilla feels excluded and lonely, so when a rather good looking but dangerous and duplicitous man, Richard Elton, takes an interest in Camilla, she finds herself responding to him in a way that she would not have thought possible.

'A Wreath of Roses' is considered to be Elizabeth Taylor's darkest book; amongst its themes are loneliness, self deception, mental suffering, fear and death, and Taylor writes sensitively and knowledgeably about these. As commented in a previous review of mine, Elizabeth Taylor uses language with a subtle sensuality and writes with compassion and with perceptive wit. Taylor is often compared to Jane Austen, and those who enjoy reading her novels will understand the comparison, but I think she should be enjoyed for her own considerable merits. And there is much that is of merit in 'A Wreath of Roses', for the author has not only written an intelligent, beguiling and elegantly structured story, she has also produced a novel with a much darker side that may keep you thinking about it after you have turned the last page.

4 Stars.

Also recommended by the same author: A View of the Harbour (Virago Modern Classics),The Soul of Kindness (Virago Modern Classics)and The Sleeping Beauty.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 5 October 2011
Perhaps the best place to start when discussing a novel by Elizabeth Taylor is with the prose: it has a beautiful flowing silkiness and every word sits comfortably within its sentence, and every sentence fits smoothly into its paragraph. Taylor's prose is deceptively light but beneath the surface elegance it has real bite. Although her subject matter is quite different at times reading A Wreath of Roses I was reminded of Daphne du Maurier. Both authors were blessed with a prose style that purred like a contented, well-fed Persian Blue. Talent will get you so far but beyond that you need a touch of genius; both du Maurier and Taylor were definitely so blessed but whereas du Maurier tended to look outwards at large and often slightly surreal themes (time travel, and the desire to escape from the dreariness of being yourself day after day, in The House on the Strand for example) Taylor looks inwards at the emotions that bubble beneath the surface of tranquil-looking and apparently unremarkable lives.

A Wreath of Roses tells the story of Camilla who believes love and the chance of happiness have passed her by, and two of her friends - Liz, who is married but perhaps not happily so, and Frances, an artist whose work has effectively become her life. Camilla and Liz spend a few weeks over summer in Frances's house, observing, talking, quietly analysing each other's lives and measuring the happiness of their friends and acquaintances against their own situations. Into this frothily fermenting female atmosphere comes Richard Elton - charismatic, charming but with a definite edge, a hint of the brutal and unpleasant. So far so conventional but such were Taylor's gifts as a writer that she manages to take these elements and twist them into an emotionally intense little tale full of perceptive comments on the human condition and wreathed throughout with beautiful imagery (flowers are everywhere, and the mysterious hills surrounding the village take on romantic or sinister overtones depending upon the person discussing them). A Wreath of Roses has been described as Taylor's darkest book and the ending is, indeed, genuinely creepy, beguiling and disturbing in equal measure.

I'm surprised, like a lot of people I suspect, that Taylor isn't better known. She was good on character, good on observation, terrific at atmosphere and positively brilliant at analysing what makes people tick. Her work may be quiet and understated - there is a picnic scene towards the end of the book where through touches so deft and subtle you barely notice them she manages to create an air of tension so icy it positively chills - but it weaves a magical spell. A Wreath of Roses is an excellent book and for all its genteel appearance it casts some very long, and very dark shadows. Superb.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This early novel firmly positions Elizabeth Taylor in the very front rank. Set in Oxfordshire, within sight of the Wittenham Clumps, the descriptions of the countryside along those poplar lined lanes and dozy villages convincingly convey the spirit of place at high summer. The war is just over and three women are having their annual holiday together, following the same pattern as in many years past.

But things are different now. One of the women has married, and just had a baby. Which sets all three reflecting: have they made the correct decision, or might life have taken a better course? The appearance of three men - a clergyman husband, a handsome bachelor, a devoted art collector - each a counterpart with one of the women, stirs the emotional waters. And there are other incidents in the district to propel thoughts along: an unexplained suicide, an unwanted pregnancy in the village.

There are haunting depths to this novel. The narrative keeps sliding easily from the sentimental surface imagery of ripe cornfields, shady churchyard, children running across the market square, to those inner vulnerabilities and measured character assessments constantly playing through the thoughts of Camilla, the main figure, who has reached a crossroads.

There is much to savour in this superbly crafted novel, so much to admire: the descriptive qualities ("gold dust" drifts upward in sunshine; the clanging bell on a Methodist chapel "nags"; poplars cast "bands of shadow" across gravel roads), the psychological sophistication, the extraordinarily good writing. The sexual undercurrent between Camilla and her suitor is extremely well-handled, especially in conveying the predatory thoughts of that handsome bachelor. And nothing prepares you for the conclusion.

Amazon, which recommended this novel to me, links the author with Elizabeth Bowen & Rosamond Lehmann, two writers I very much enjoy; although this novel strongly brings to mind Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac, another work I value highly.

(The only weakness in the edition is the introduction, which is lame and clichéd.)
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 July 2014
I bought this book when I was 16 in 1971 (pre-Amazon of course!), and it has always been one of my favourites. Even at that early age, I related well to Camilla and loved the countryside-atmosphere conjured up in the book. The reason for my review is that only this year (2014) did I find out that Elizabeth Taylor was partially inspired to write the story by a real-life murderer called Neville Heath. Heath was a pilot during the war, was very charismatic and loved the flying-life and the bar-life, but he drank heavily, ran up debts, used false names, lived in hotels, etc. Eventually, he was convicted of killing two women and was hanged in 1946. By chance, I read a book about Heath this year, and the author mentioned Ms Taylor had been influenced by the case to write A Wreath of Roses (circa 1949) - a revelation to me after 40 years but makes perfect sense, and I thought it worthwhile sharing.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 10 August 2014
Had this been any other Elizabeth Taylor novel [aside from "Angel" which is not typical of her work] I would probably have given this 4 or 5 stars but it is a somewhat morbid, sad story which feels claustrophobic and as stifling as the post-war summer in which it takes place.

Frances, the elderly artist is concerned that her painting days are over, due to rheumatism and old age, and knows that death is on the horizon. Liz is perpetually worried about her new baby, and her ineffectual husband [who is besotted with the womenfolk of his congregation, to Liz's consternation] is a thorn in the side of Liz's best friend, Camilla.

Camilla herself, knowing that she is "on the shelf" [this is 1947 or thereabouts] and desperate for something of a holiday romance becomes entangled with the totally unsuitable Richard who has criminal tendencies and lives his life in a haze of fantasy and bar fumes.

Into the mix comes the lonely but eminently likeable Morland Beddoes, a film director and friend of Frances's, who, being removed from the emotional entanglements of the quintet, observes and understands everyone's troubles and tries to be the voice of reason in the maelstrom which is created when what was once a happy summer holiday appears to be heading for disaster.

The earlier review by Gill, stating that Elizabeth Taylor based this story on a real person is very interesting and can be found in Nicola Beauman's excellent recent biography of Ms Taylor.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 July 2009
A strange and chilling novel by Elizabeth Taylor, very different from any of her others: 'Beauty and corruption touch us - at the same time, in the same place ...always the two going hand in hand.'
Camilla is a gauche spinster, on the brink of middle age, who started life on the wrong footing and never got going, never launched herself into love or marriage. Her friend Liz - who allows herself second chances at what she doesn't get right first time - is shakily married to a slightly pompous vicar, but their relationship steadies itself; it isn't perfect, but grows more solid as an institution. The two women are on a week's holiday staying with Liz's old governess.
Desperate for something to happen to her, Camilla begins an incongruous liaison with the only man on the horizon, a handsome liar with empty eyes who is staying seemingly aimlessly in a local hotel ... And the ending is more chilling than anything I could have expected from Elizabeth Taylor.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 November 2013
Refreshing to find a book that is so well written - original, thought provoking themes set in a compelling plot. Wonderful descriptions of characters and places.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 August 2013
This dark and brooding novel is simply wonderful- Taylor writes so well and with such depth. A book to savour
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 July 2014
Chilling and subtle - quite different from her other novels.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.