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Angel (Virago Modern Classics) by Elizabeth…

Angel (Virago Modern Classics) (original 1957; edition 1984)

by Elizabeth Taylor

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6062216,110 (3.98)1 / 145
Title:Angel (Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Elizabeth Taylor
Info:London Virago 1984, c1957 ix,252p 20cm pbk
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 20th century, women, Britain, Virago, VMC

Work details

Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (1957)


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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! ( )
1 vote thorold | Aug 23, 2016 |
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 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
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)

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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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