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A Beautifully Written Story,
This review is from: A View Of The Harbour: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Bertram Hemingway, ex-navy, now retired and keen to prove his prowess with a paintbrush and canvas, arrives at the coastal village of Newby, and takes a room at the pub in the harbour. Sitting on the harbour wall, in view of the lighthouse and with his sketch-book in hand, Bertram surveys the dilapidated properties around the harbour and becomes interested in the people who live in them. Living above the Waxworks Exhibition is widow, Lily Wilson, who locks her bedroom door at nights, afraid of the 'ghostly company' downstairs in museum; at the second-hand clothes shop there is Mrs Bracey, paralysed from the hips down, a naturally inquisitive and garrulous woman, who has to rely on the comings and goings of her neighbours for entertainment; living with Mrs Bracey is her daughter, Iris, who works in the pub and spends her time imagining Laurence Olivier opening the saloon door and heading straight for her; in the big house lives the local doctor, Robert, with his novelist wife Beth, and their daughter, Prudence - twenty years old and never been kissed; and between the doctor's house and the pub, lives beautiful divorcee, Tory, who unbeknown to her friend Beth, is involved in an affair with Beth's husband, Robert. (Not a spoiler, we know this from the information on the cover of the book). When Prudence discovers that her father is involved with Tory, she is appalled, and her reaction greatly worries Robert and Tory who would hate for Beth to learn of their betrayal...
This is a beautifully written story with some wonderful painterly descriptions, especially at the book's opening where the author vividly describes her harbour setting, the huddle of buildings on the seafront and the community within. On the surface it may appear that not a huge amount happens in this seaside town, but behind the closed doors and the lace curtains, we watch as flawed, but likeable characters cope with their own small disasters and dilemmas, triumphs and disappointments. Elizabeth Taylor is a marvellous writer who is able to portray her characters and their situations with compassion, perception and humour. She is excellent at describing the dynamics of mid-twentieth century middle-class family life, and she is very good at exploring the vagaries of the human heart. I always enjoy reading Elizabeth Taylor and, in addition to this novel, I can recommend:The Sleeping Beauty; A Wreath Of Roses; Blaming; Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont and if you enjoy short stories, do try:Complete Short Stories (VMC).