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Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

Angel (1957)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6522421,204 (3.98)1 / 149

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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 |
First off, the Elizabeth Taylor who wrote this book is not that Elizabeth Taylor. Just had to get that out of the way because that's what I thought at first. Anyway, this is the story of Angel, a terribly spoiled girl and generally horrible human being who spends half her time daydreaming while her mother toils away to support her, and the other half writing awful novels that, miraculously, get published and even sell fairly well despite being utter drivel. She's heartless and self-absorbed and watching her slow descent is surprisingly engrossing. (And maybe there's a little bit of satisfying schadenfreude in there too.) This not the sort of book I would have picked up on my own, but the writing was gorgeous enough to draw me in and want to find out what happens to Angel and the people pulled into her orbit. Surprisingly good. ( )
  melydia | Jun 9, 2017 |
The rise and fall of one woman. Fifteen-year old Angel Deverell has always known she was different, determined to do better in life than her mother, when she is 15 she decides she is destined to live at nearby mansion Paradise House, where her aunt works as a maid. Angel starts to write a novel, allowing flight to her fantasies, caring nothing for accuracies of history, detail or context. Her publisher agrees to take on ‘The Lady Irania’ with misgivings but it flies off the shelves and a new romantic novelist is born. Angel, already living the life of a grand novelist, writes a second and a third.
As well as the obvious interest for readers who are also novelists, this book is a wonderful study of a girl’s life, a girl who doesn’t take no for an answer, who grows into a woman who finds it impossible to accept advice or guidance from anyone. She learns to ignore the insults of the critics and relish her sales figures, whilst remaining separate from her readers. Elizabeth Taylor is a novelist with an acute observational eye and in Angel she has created a monster heroine: vain, blinkered, stubborn and lacking entirely in humility, empathy or self-knowledge, she leaves a trail as she charges through life. She is certainly unlikeable, but Taylor has created a chemistry which made me want to continue reading Angel’s story.
This is a quiet novel, the storyline has no bells and whistles but it follows Angel’s life through a time of great upheaval. She is born a Victorian, becomes an Edwardian, survives the Great War, the depressed 1930s and the Second World War. As women are agitating for the vote free of the constraints of their husbands, Angel has no husband to support her or vote for her. She is an independent woman and we see her life unfurl not only in her writing, but her interactions with men and women.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Sep 2, 2016 |
This is a rather uncharacteristic book for Taylor, but it is based on her usual mix of sharp humour and comfortable pessimism. It's an extravagant, satirical fantasy about an appallingly bad and very successful popular Edwardian novelist. The only one of Taylor's books to be set in part outside her own lifetime, it opens in 1900 and ends sometime in the 1940s. Although the fictional Angel Deverell's life and work seem to bear more than a passing resemblance to those of the real (but still gloriously improbable) novelist Marie Corelli, Taylor is obviously also doing a "there but for the grace of God..." thing, weaving in elements from her own experience as a beginning novelist and imagining how she might have ended up if she had been born without a sense of humour and the self-protective instinct to hide herself in conformity. Both of these lacks leave the unfortunate Angel extremely vulnerable to being hurt by the people she comes across, and it's paradoxically this very vulnerability that also makes it possible for a few people in her life to love her. It's a gloriously funny book, but also a surprisingly touching and sad one. Not to be missed! ( )
2 vote thorold | Aug 23, 2016 |
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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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Book description
From the book cover:
"'I am writing a novel.' Under the bedclothes her fists were clenched and pressing against her thighs. She felt ferocity towards him, as if he had already laughed at her. 'I am going to be a novelist,' she said"

Angelica Deverell is fifteen years old at the turn of the century. She is the daughter of a widow who keeps a grocery shop in a dreary provincial backstreet, working hard to pay for Angel's education so she can "better herself". But Angel rejects the drabness of her daily life and, retreating into a world of romantic dreams, she begins to write stories remarkable for their extravagance and fantasy. To those around her it is simply folie de grandeur, but Angel knows better. She knows she is different, that she will grow up to be a fêted authoress, owner of great riches and of the mysterious Paradise House. . .
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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 3 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)

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