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Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

Angel (1957)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6722721,483 (3.98)1 / 153

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English (25)  Spanish (2)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This book, about a writer’s life from around 1900 through the 1960s, started off as great fun and grew more serious as it went on. But all of it was good. As an introduction to Elizabeth Taylor it’s certainly made me want to read more by her.

The best comparison I can make is that Angel starts like a female, teenage version of Hadrian the Seventh, that wonderfully self-indulgent catholic fan-fic written by Frederick Rolfe: that one, too, deals with an impossibly smug writer convinced of their natural superiority and utterly unwilling to compromise. Angellica Deverell (to give Angel her full name) is a confident teenager who is bored with her and her timid mother’s bland life above a shop they keep for someone else, and decides randomly to start writing a novel. The end product reflects Angel’s values: great flights of fancy, purple prose and a firm conviction that her imagination is a superior substitute to real life -- in short: over-wrought romance among the upper classes. Her manuscript sees print on a lark, by a publisher who laughed themselves silly at Angel’s so-bad-it’s-hilarious efforts. In later sections of the book Angel will become a wealthy, highly successful author whose career and emotional life will see the impact of the events of the 20th century.

I have a penchant for books about what I call magnificent megalomaniacs, larger than life characters who take their obsessions so seriously they become absurd. And that is definitely what Angellica Deverell is: she goes all the way and pursues her (petty and ridiculous) goals with a seriousness that commands respect. And in many ways, that is how this book feels on a meta level, too: Elizabeth Taylor definitely sees the funny side of Angel, tongue firmly in cheek, and she makes sure that at least a few of the other characters are prone to snarkiness and eager to egg things on just to see how far they will go. But Taylor herself does not relent in supporting Angel all the way: any meanness in the humour is entirely the characters’. Like any good parent, Taylor stands by her creation and insists on seeing them develop on their own terms, socially awkward though they may be. That is the space in which this novel develops, and Taylor did a masterful job of being fair to all sides.

In all, I think this was a lovely character study of a slightly absurd, magnificently megalomaniacal writer. A very charming surprise, but a book I loved and one which I recommend warmly! ( )
2 vote Petroglyph | Apr 21, 2019 |
Utterly entertaining novel, the account of the increasingly eccentric, self obsessed and anti-social Angelica Deverill. Daughter of a lowly widowed shopkeeer, Angel has great plans for her literary career, producing inadvertently hilarious novels set in grand stately homes (put me in mind of Daisy Ashford's 'Young Visiters' )(sic), the whole a product of imagination and stories heard from her aunt - a lady's maid. Because unlike other young literary wannabes, Angel doesn't read...she is only interested in her own creations.
Angel is a wonderful creation; Taylor's powerful characterization never falters, we believe in her impossible nature totally.On being told by someone "I read one of your books", "she blinked, jolted by what he had said. She always supposed that everyone had read all of her books and had them nearly by heart, that they thought about them endlessly and waited impatiently for the next one to appear."
And as old age sets in, Angel (complete with peacocks, umpteen cats, a mouldering stately home and an outlandish wardrobe) becomes increasingly alienated from normal folk.
Laugh out loud funny in numerous places (especially the bits about cats). For all her unutterable awfulness, I rather liked Angelica. At times she almost felt like a soul -mate! ( )
2 vote starbox | Dec 18, 2018 |
Might serve as a cautionary tale for female writers with cats. Predictable in all the right ways. ( )
  LizoksBooks | Dec 15, 2018 |
This book was, in a roundabout fashion, my introduction to the fiction of Elizabeth Taylor – or rather, I learnt of her writing thanks to this book. Well, thanks to François Ozon’s adaptation of it, starring Romola Garai, which I reviewed many years ago for videovista.net. I liked the film so much, I kept an eye open in charity shops for books by Taylor… and it’s taken till now before I finally stumbled across a copy of Angel (after first finding and reading Blaming and A Wreath of Roses). And the first thing I noted about Angel the novel was its differences to the film adaptation. The plots are pretty much identical – opening in the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, working-class teeenager Angelica Devereux, Angel, writes a florid romance novel, publisher takes a chance on it, book is a success, Angel goes onto become a successful – if critically mocked – writer, falls in love with Esmé, an impoverished upper-class painter, who marries her for her money but cheats on her, he is wounded in WWI and dies in an accident soon after, her books are by then no longer popular, and she lingers on in poverty… The film has Esmé’s work re-evaluated after his death, so he becomes critically lauded, while Angel’s books continue to be seen as trashy potboilers. The film also makes Angel more of a figure of fun, and so more sympathetic, than the novel, although they make use of the same events. In that respect, in that Angel is an unsympathetic character, and not played for light laughs, the book is a tougher read than the film is a viewing. But Taylor’s prose is so very good, reading it is never a hardship (which is not say Ozon’s direction is bad, although he does film it in a very artificial, almost pantomime, style, which suits his treatment of the material). I’ve now read Angel, but I’ll continue to keep an eye open for Taylor’s novels – and I have her Complete Short Stories on the TBR… ( )
1 vote iansales | Sep 17, 2017 |
Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorite underrated authors, and my favorite of hers is Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. I liked this NYRB reissue a lot, although it wasn't quite up to Mrs. Palfrey.

Angelica Deverell, becomes a best-selling author in her teens--she's so bad she's good, tasteless and ignorant. We follow her from her childhood poverty, through her early successes, bringing her fabulous wealth, through to her old age, when her fortunes have declined and she is no longer in style. Through-out it all, she lives a life of humorous, but at the same time sad, self-deception.

Hilary Mantel, who wrote the introduction to the NYRB version, described Angel as a "high priestess of schlock", and said, "Angel is a book in which an accomplished, deft and somewhat underrated writer has a great deal of fun at the expense of a crass, graceless and wildly overpaid one."

Recommended ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jul 10, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Taylor, Elizabethprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boldini, GiovanniCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantel, HilaryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Angel ( [2007]IMDb)
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To Patience Ross
First words
"'into the vast vacuity of the empyrean,'" Miss Dawson read.
"You ought to get married, Miss Sylvia," said old Jeffcott, the head gardener, with a wag of his hoary beard. (Introduction)
Gilbright and Brace had been divided, as their readers' reports had been. Willie Brace had worn his guts thin with laughing, he said. The Lady Irania was his favourite party-piece and he mocked at his partner's defence of it in his own version of Angel's language.

"Kindly raise your coruscating beard from those iridescent pages of shimmering tosh and permit your mordant thoughts to dwell for one mordant moment on us perishing in the coruscating workhouse, which is where we shall without a doubt find ourselves, among the so-called denizens of deep-fraught penury. Ask yourself - nay, go so far as to enquire of yourself - how do we stand by such brilliant balderdash and live, nay, not only live, but exist too..."

"You overdo those 'nays'," said Theo Gilbright. "She does not."

"There's a 'nay' on every page. M'wife counted them."
Even if she had felt a need to renew contact with life, a funeral was a strange way of doing so: and she felt no such need: at sixteen, experience was an unnecessary and usually baffling obstacle to her imagination.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860683559, Paperback)

At the turn of the century, 15-year-old Angelica escapes her life in a grocer's shop in a dreary provincial backstreet by retreating into a world of romantic dreams. She knows sheis different - destined to become a feted author, owner of great riches and the mysterious Paradise House.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:12 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Writing stories that are extravagant and fanciful, fifteen-year old Angel retreats to a world of romance, escaping the drabness of provincial life. She knows she is different, that she is destined to become a feted authoress, owner of great riches and of Paradise House.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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