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A Wreath Of Roses (original 1949; edition 1984)


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197959,709 (4.22)1 / 77
Title:A Wreath Of Roses
Info:PENGUIN BOOKS LTD (1984), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 176 pages
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A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor (1949)



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The early chapters didn’t sparkle very much for me but I sense a change and the emergence of a psychologically darker tone. It’s a story about three women who were very close for several years and spent many idyllic summers together in the country. But as the novel begins and they meet once again for their holiday, each of them is conscious of how much their lives have changed.

The once young and carefree Liz is struggling with her new role as a mother and vicar’s wife. Frances, the eldest of the trio, having swapped her life as teacher and governess to become a successful painter in later life, now finds her new work taking on a darker, more disturbing tone. Such changes leave the central character Camilla feeling estranged and disenchanted with the direction her own life has taken. The handsome man she meets by accident at the train station suggests an escape ..but Richard Elton seems to have an all too different agenda.

That was the point at which I decided it was worth reading further. I’d enjoyed some of the descriptive passages thanks to Taylor’s very painterly but the characters hadn’t really come to life so I didn’t particularly care what they thought or felt. It wasn’t until the narrative switched to Richard’s point of view and glimpses of his disturbed personality, were revealed that the book took on a new dimension. ( )
  Mercury57 | Oct 21, 2012 |
"An old woman, who had seemed to be a mound of rusty clothes, stirred and lifted her head. Her hands lay on her lap as if they were separate from her body, two little sleeping animals."


"The sun seemed to touch their bones, poured into them as if they were hollow like cups. Even the trees below in the valley looked dazed. Nothing moved, but the heat shimmering until the view was like a bad photograph."

Camilla, Frances and Liz have always spent summers together in a contented trio of perfect female friendship at the cottage owned by Frances, but things are different this summer, and Camilla feels more lonely and detached from the two other women than ever. Frances has always had her painting to sustain her, though she's also always gone out of her way to dispel any notion that she might be an eccentric artist and would rather be praised for her crab apple jelly than her painting. This year however, she is suffering more than ever from the effects of old age and her painting style has gone through a dramatic change, and not necessarily for the better. Liz, for her part, has found some kind of contentment in a marriage to a man she is not sure she loves, but in any case, her newborn baby occupies her completely and creates a distance between the two women, who've been used to sharing late night secrets and laughter together, to the annoyance of their old friend. Small wonder then, that Camilla should find herself irresistibly drawn to a shady but very handsome man she's met on the train to this fictional town of Abingford. We know from the beginning of the novel that something is bound to go terribly wrong, if the gruesome event Camilla and Richard have witnessed at the train station and which has acted as an icebreaker between them is to be taken as any kind of omen. Not very much happens, other than the normal activities one does on vacation; sitting in pubs, taking walks on the grassy hill-side, a picnic, a drive, picking wild flowers, another walk, in the driving rain this time. Yet so much happens in the interactions of Taylor's fascinating characters and the complexity of their own thoughts and feelings. There is that, and there is the gorgeous prose. The gorgeous prose which seems effortless, yet is so very evocative and for me, a wealth of imagery worthy of several paintigs. My third book by Elizabeth Taylor, and I look forward to many more. ( )
2 vote Smiler69 | Sep 4, 2012 |
My second Taylor novel will definitely not be my last. She seems to be a master at delineating loneliness in all its forms and this novel, written a few years after WWII, demonstrates the dark lonely days where the characters showed the after lasting effects of that war time period.

Three women, Camilla, Frances and Liz, have always spent the month of August on holiday together and this year is no different. What is different, are the lives of the women. Liz has married a minister and is now a new mother. Camilla, disappointed at what she views as her friend’s abandonment, counters by taking up with a man she met while witnessing a ghastly event at a train platform. Frances, for her part, is concentrating on her painting, which she feels is coming to an end, as the results of aging are becoming more and more apparent.

Add to this group three very different men, including Liz’s husband, Arthur, who just shows up one day, throwing off the previous balance of personalities. Morland Beddoes is an admirer of Frances’ paintings, many of which he’s purchased. And then there’s Camilla’s acquaintance Richard, a truly frightening character.

The interactions and thoughts of these six people provide the impetus for Taylor’s narrative. It’s the little things, that occupy their days and nights, that prove to be so very interesting. And the author provides some lovely prose along the way. In this scene, between Liz and Camilla delineates the problems the two face now:

”They would not exchange glances. They were lost to one another. A no man’s land lay between them now, a terrain of unshared experience. The long years of intimacy, the letters spilling over untidily from page to page, the perfect matching of mood and humour, the exactly followed translations from deep sincerity to mockery or innuendo, now buckled up and came to a standstill. Only embarrassment stirred them.” (Page 112)

I found the prose would sneak up on me deceptively until I would think,”Wait…what was that again?” And I would reread. At the same time, Taylor manages to keep up a steadily increasing tempo leading up to the last few shocking paragraphs. Very much recommended. ( )
8 vote brenzi | Apr 26, 2012 |
This is the first ET novel I've read so I can't yet compare it to anything else she's done. However, she's certainly won me over with this one and I can't wait to read more. Taylor's prose is quite lovely and her descriptions are really evocative - she captures amazingly well the feel of an English summer in the country where the roads and lanes are hot and dusty and deserted. There is much internal philosophising from the three main female characters who all in some way seem to be reaching a personal crisis or turning point. There is darkness in the book but a kind of resolution for each character and it's a very satisfying read. ( )
  kaggsy | Apr 24, 2012 |
There are three heroines in this short novel by Elizabeth Taylor and they correspond to the old folk image of "maiden, mother, crone." (I do prefer the more accurate "wise woman" for the latter.) Camilla is the virgin, settling uncomfortably into spinsterhood, dissatisfied with her career at a girls' school, becoming prickly and withdrawn. Liz, her school friend, is the new mother of a baby boy, and the 18 month bride of an Anglican clergyman. The wise woman is Frances, Liz's governess, a painter of gardens and light and melancholy pastel interiors. Camilla and Liz have spent every August since they left university with Frances at her flint cottage in Abingford. Only this year things are not the usual, happy holiday.

The relationship between the women has become unbalanced and they are unable to regain their easy, affection toward each other. Liz's center is now her child and since she has had no contact with infants she worries at every whimper and sniffle her lively baby has. Frances is dying and her last three paintings are not lovely, dreamy scenes, but angry, passionate images of chaos. Though she loves the girls, she is letting go. Camilla wants to experience passion before she sinks into early middle age.They are on different pages this summer. Death and mortality stalk the women. The novel begins with Camilla witnessing a suicide from a train platform on her way to the cottage. She becomes involved with a man she knows is a dangerous liar and possibly more. Liz is convinced her baby is dying. Frances knows she will not live to create another picture.

The three men in the novel balance the three women: Richard who seems to offer what Camilla wants; Arthur who spends more time writing letters to his wealthy female parishiners than he spends on his theology; and Morland who loves Frances' paintings and wants her to celebrate life to the end.

In a dark novel, there are flashes of Taylor's humour. Morning spit can cure everything from teething pain to chilbains. At an imaginary tea party Charlotte Bronte stood by the gate, Virginia was late, and Elizabeth Barrett hogged the sofa. And, as usual, the imagery is spot-on. Frances' cottage is surrounded by cactus plants, prickly as the relationships among the characters. Roses, alive and beautiful, are woven into a wreath and are nothing but dead flowers with thorns the next day.

Maiden, mother, wise woman. The three stages of a woman's life. Maybe. ( )
1 vote Liz1564 | Apr 22, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunmore, HelenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McWilliam, CandiaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"So terrible was life that I held up shade after shade. Look at life through this, look at life through that; let there be rose leaves, let there be vine leaves - I covered the whole street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, with the blaze and ripple of my mind, with vine leaves and rose leaves." ~ Virginia Woolf: The Waves

To Maud Geddes
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Afternoons seem unending on branch-line stations in England in summer time.
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Book description
'We go on for years at a jog-trot,' Frances said, 'and then suddenly we are beset with doubts, the landscape darkens, we feel lost and alone.'
Spending the holiday with friends, as she has for many years, Camilla finds that their private absorptions - Frances with her painting and Liz with her baby - seem to exclude her from the gossipy intimacies of previous summers. Anxious that she will remain encased in her solitary life as a school secretary, Camilla steps into an unlikely liaison with Richard Elton, a handsome, assured - and dangerous - liar. Replete with the subtle wit that is her hallmark, and a tender and perfectly evoked portrait of friendship between women, A Wreath of Roses is nonetheless Elizabeth Taylor's darkest novel: an astute exploration of the fear of loneliness and its emotional armour.

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Spending the holiday with friends, Camilla finds that their private absorptions seem to exclude her from the gossipy intimacies of previous summers. Anxious that she will remain encased in her solitary life as a school secretary, Camilla steps into an unlikesly liaison with Richard Elton, a handsome, assured - and dangerous - liar.… (more)

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