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Angel (Virago Modern Classics) by Elizabeth…
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Angel (Virago Modern Classics) (original 1957; edition 1984)

by Elizabeth Taylor

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5262019,198 (4.03)1 / 135
Member:aluvalibri
Title:Angel (Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Elizabeth Taylor
Info:London Virago 1984, c1957 ix,252p 20cm pbk
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:fiction, 20th century, women, Britain, Virago, VMC

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Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (1957)

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English (18)  Spanish (2)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I must confess: when I was in seventh grade, I had a tremendous crush on Elizabeth Taylor. Molecules of that crush remain today. When I first noticed a novel by Elizabeth Taylor, I quickly dismissed the writer as no relation to the violet-eyed goddess. Then, the name kept popping up in odd places, a mention here and there, without any elaboration. Finally, I decided to find out about Liz the second. The first novel I could find was Angel.

According to the bio in the New York Review Books Classics, Taylor was born in 1912 into a middle-class family in Berkshire, England. She worked as a librarian and governess before marrying in 1936. Nine years later, the first of her eleven novels appeared. She also authored four collections of short stories. Two of her novels, including Angel were made into films. I just added that one to my Netflix queue.

Angelica Deverell is a thoroughly despicable character. Most of the time, readers like to admire the main characters in the novels they read, but every once in a while, one comes along with such an absorbing story, we can’t stop reading.

Angel lives with her mother over a shop in a poor section of town. Angel’s Auntie Lottie is in service as a lady’s maid to a wealthy family nearby at Paradise House. She offers to introduce her niece to service to help out her sister and “Angel stared at her. ‘Do you really dare to suggest that I should demean myself doing for a useless half-wit of a girl what she could perfectly well do for herself; that I should grovel and curtsy to someone of my own age; dance attendance on her; put on her stockings for her and sit up late at night, waiting for her to come back from enjoying herself? You must be utterly mad to breathe a single word of such a thing to me’” (46). One must admire her spirit, drive, and determination.

Angel hears stories about Paradise House, the grounds, the peacocks, and the servants. However, she will not visit there, because, Taylor writes, “My mother lost her inheritance because she married beneath her. She can never go back, so don’t ever mention anything to anybody about Paradise House for that reason” (10). Secretly, Angel has a growing obsession with the house.

At an early age, Angel decides she is going to become a famous writer. She writes her first novel at about the age of 16. She sends it off to the only publisher she has ever heard of – Oxford University Press – and quickly receives a rejection. She denigrates the editors, and her wild imagination began to reshape her life. Taylor writes, “Her panic-stricken face would be reflected back at her as she struggled to deny her identity, slowly cosseting herself away from the truth. She was learning to triumph over reality, and the truth was beginning to leave her in peace” (15).

Angel’s dreams grew and expanded. Taylor writes, “She had never had any especial friends and most people seemed unreal to her. her aloofness and her reputation for being vain made her unpopular, yet there were times when she longed desperately, because of some uneasiness, to establish herself; to make her mark; to talk, as she thought of it, on equal terms: but since she had never thought of herself as being on equal terms with anyone, she stumbled from condescension to appeasement, making what the other girls called ‘personal remarks’ and offending with off-hand flattery” (16-17).

The prose is wonderful, the story absorbing, the characters all interesting. I can’t wait to find more of her novels. Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor. 5 stars

--Jim, 2/3/15 ( )
  rmckeown | Feb 3, 2015 |
Angel Deverell is a successful writer of tawdry and historically inaccurate novels that are mocked by the literary establishment. From her working-class childhood, to her life at Paradise House (a sprawling country estate), Angel plows through life defensive, unbending, and completely humorless. While easily shattered by criticism, she lacks empathy and compassion towards other people, and appears as a mild sociopath in some respects. Everything revolves around getting her way and collecting objects that enhance her standing among those who previously looked down upon her. Even the interactions with her love interest, though intense and obsessive in nature, seem to lack any real feeling and are more material than anything else.

This is a most perplexing novel, because I can't decide whether I interpret it as a comedy or as a heart-wrenching, grim, depressing nightmare. There were times when some of the descriptions and events were so over-the-top that I thought, "Ms. Taylor, you cannot be serious! This stuff is bananas!" However, Angel is a tragic and fascinating character and Taylor does a wonderful job of showing the pain and anguish underneath her hateful and exasperating exterior without ever explicitly spelling anything out. I sincerely feel for her. That's the magic of the novel for me. It's emotionally powerful in a quiet way and made me sad and very uncomfortable. So, whatever it is, I found it unputdownable and recommend it to those who don't mind hateful, yet fascinating, main characters. ( )
  DorsVenabili | Oct 10, 2014 |
It’s been years since I last read this book, and I’d forgotten just how good it is. Angel is in many ways an appalling character (lazy, selfish, entirely lacking in a sense of humour, a would-be novelist who never reads books), but Taylor’s skill is such that she makes her sympathetic. We don’t like Angel, but in an odd sort of way we care what happens to her.

Angel is a the daughter of tradespeople with ideas above her station thanks to an over-active imagination that is fixated on the nearby Paradise House, where her aunt works as a lady’s maid. She is offered the chance to go and work there, to be trained up as personal maid to the daughter of the house, who is about Angel’s age.

Angel has other plans. Feigning illness so that she can get out of going to school, she begins writing a novel, which is basically her daydreams writ large, written in the lurid, overblown style for which the popular novelist Marie Corelli was (in)famous. (Aside: I’ve only read one of Corelli’s novels, ‘Wormwood’, which may not be the finest literature, but is readable and entertaining.)

An innocent in the ways of the world, Angel duly sends off her novel to publishers selected entirely at random, and eventually her book is taken on by the firm of Gilbright & Brace (though more because the book is unintentionally hilarious than because it has any artistic merit).

As she grows into adulthood, her arrogance and selfishness do not diminish, and her occasional flashes of self-knowledge are all the more affecting because they’re so fleeting. Despite the luxuries she is able to afford, the poverty of her life (she sees nothing except in terms of herself, and then mainly as fodder for her novels) is dispiriting. One may laugh at Angel, but in many ways she is a tragic figure. As her publisher points out quite early on, Angel is the sort of person who can never truly enjoy life – she must always find fault, even when she apparently gets everything she wants.
[Sept 2014]
  startingover | Sep 19, 2014 |
Angel Deverell begins writing to escape her prosaic life as a teenager, and to everyone's surprise but her own, becomes a best selling author. Taylor has some fun suggesting just how terrible Angel's novels are, but the focus of the novel is on the character of Angel herself and her small circle of family and friends who veer between oddly protective love of her and exasperation and despair at just how awful she is.

Angel would likely see her circle as minor supporting characters in the grand drama that is her life, but Taylor quietly goes about filling in their details: Theo, her publisher; Esmé her husband; Nora, Esmé's sister and Angel's companion till death; Angel's chauffeur and foil, Marvell; even the dogs and cats of the household are beautifully filled in.

A wonderful book, and the intro by Hilary Mantel in the NYRB edition is also lovely. ( )
  ipsoivan | Apr 19, 2014 |
What an engrossing novel! Taylor has created a protagonist who has no redeeming points for me and yet I was fascinated to follow this woman's life from adolescence to old age. Angel Deverell is a highly successful popular novelist who wrote fantastic, silly fiction aimed at imaginative shop girls yearning for romance. The crux of the novel is that Angel herself is her target readership and she firmly believes that what she is creating is real life. In one amusing scene Angel expresses her deep disappointment in Greece because it bears no resemblance to descriptions in her books which are the correct descriptions.

The reader first meets Angel at school. Her mother who owns a little shop and her aunt who is in domestic service sacrifice to send her to a decent girl's school where Angel dumbfounds her teachers with huge amounts of purple prose. Unable to believe that a mere schoolgirl could write such tripe, the English teacher searches through bad authors to find Angel's source. When accused of plagerism, Angel rightfully denies it (she is not a reader; reading bores her). Unappreciated, she takes to her bed and, even though the doctor sees right through her sick pose, she persists in fooling her mother that she is too ill to return to school. As a teen 'invalid' she writes her first novel.

So begins her long career. Her book is accepted because the canny publisher realizes her fiction will fill a hole in the market. Bad reviews only fuel interest in her novels. She and her adoring fans see the reviews as a conspiracy by the reviewers who are just jealous of her talent! In the coming years she gains a worshipping secretary/companion, the companion's handsome twin brother as a husband, and a cranky and loyal chauffeur /handyman. She buys her fantasy home Paradise House complete with white peacocks.

But bad writers go out of fashion and Angel's overblown style and dubious idea of history could not withstand the realities of World War I. As her income declines the house begins to fall apart, the gardens overgrow, and the peacocks molt and leave droppings on the terrace for no groundsmen remain to clean up. Angel floats from dusty room to decaying fruit orchard wearing evening gowns with torn straps and frazzled hems. Her automobile is kept together with the 1920's equivalent of duct tape. Still, in her head, she is the queen of fiction..

Taylor's Angel is a cuckoo, a strange bird thrust into the nest of a working-class shopkeeper where she is allowed to indulge her fantasies I loved laughing at her because I really saw her as a harmless eccentric so full of herself that she was not even aware of her downfall. I did not pity her or dislike her. After all, whom did she hurt? She made lots of money for her publishers who knew quite well they were printing garbage. Her bad reviews sold newspapers. She allowed Nora her companion to adore her and provided Nora with a reason for living. Her husband was too lazy to be a painter, even if at one time he may have showed a small talent. He would not have amounted to much, with or without Angel.

Only one person in the novel is truly to be pitied. Angel's hardworking mum loves her daughter and sacrifices her life for the cuckoo. She clings to her roots, even when Angel moves her to the fancy new house full of servants. Poor Mrs Deverell sees nothing wrong with telling a reporter that Angel was raised above a shop and showing him treasured pictures of a naked baby Angel and an awkward little girl. She still mourns a hardly remembered young husband and is hurt when Angel puts out the story (which Angel may even believe) that Angel's father was a nobleman who loved and abandoned Angel's mother for the good of his country. Think Student Prince. Mrs. Deverell is so cowed and in awe of her daughter that she downplays her final illness and Angel is too self-centered to recognize her mother's sufferings from the cancer that killed her.

Actually, now that I think of it, a few other characters in the book were injured by Angel. As Lady Bountiful, she stalked her poor neighbors, provided them with inferior jam and insisted on reading to the sick. One irate woman demanded that Angel leave her husband to die in peace because she scared him with her visits! ( )
2 vote Liz1564 | Aug 13, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary 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
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"'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)
Quotations
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."
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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)

(summary from another edition)

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