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In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor

In a Summer Season (original 1961; edition 1993)

by Elizabeth Taylor

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3521331,026 (3.9)1 / 104
Title:In a Summer Season
Authors:Elizabeth Taylor
Info:Carroll & Graf (1993), Paperback, 227 pages
Collections:Fiction, Your library
Tags:Fiction, Marriage, England, Families

Work details

In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor (1961)



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Delicious. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This was fun. I'm still new to the whole English novel of manners thing, and the class issues leave me a little itchy, but they're at least part of what the book is about, after all. Marvelous tiny observations and celebrations of what lies beneath the surface—joys, resentments, and recalibrations for the most part. Even a little sex. I'll definitely be reading more of Taylor.

For anyone interested, there's a discussion of the book starting up over at Bookballoon.com (a literary discussion forum, worth checking out if you haven't already). ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Jun 7, 2016 |
Delicate, slightly wistful but also rather ironic account of a very English family not quite finding happiness in very English ways. The Swinging Sixties look as though they are going to invade suburban Berkshire (or is it Oxfordshire?), but the even pace of Home Counties commuter life keeps them firmly at bay. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jan 16, 2014 |
I picked this book up because I saw the author's name (but quickly saw that this was another Elizabeth Taylor) and because I've liked other Virago Modern Classics. This book is about family and love seen from many different perspectives and the reviews cover the relationships nicely. There is also Mrs. Meacock, who cooks for the family and is working on a book of sayings that she has collected over many years. In one paragraph she worries about the point of existence, concluding:
... until one ends up wondering what was the use of writing War and Peace, for instance.' She regarded that as the ultimate achievement, as a sacred novel almost, about which, like the Bible, there are not two opinions. One subscribed to it, or kept quiet. She herself subscribed to it, although she had not read it. She seemed to know all about it without doing so. ( )
1 vote raizel | Oct 4, 2013 |
I discovered Taylor because of the Virago publications, and this is the second I have read from her. In this book, we spend time with a family that has reestablished a tentative calm after the death of the husband/father of the household. Kate, the widow, has fallen in love and remarried Dermot, an aimless man much younger than herself. Her son, Tom, surprised her by bonding with her new husband, and she isn't always happy about the outcome of their close relationship. Kate's daughter, on the other hand, is not pleased. Louisa resents her mother and Dermot; her mother for not acting her age and creating a scandal, and Dermot for taking her father's place. The family is rounded out by Aunt Ethel, their spinster aunt who lives on Kate's generosity.

The novel presents a complex insight into family and love. Despite all the fractures in the relationships amongst the members of this household, they are still people who care about each other. Kate is fully aware of Dermot's weaknesses, and yet she forgives him, and even acknowledges to herself that she would make the same decision to marry him all over again. Louisa truly cares for her mom, even if she is angry with her, and wants to be babied and wants to assert independence at the same time. Ethel is full of secret judgement and gossip, but always delivered with deference and true love for the family members she watches. She is aware of her position, a bit of a martyr, and yet rather sweet, too. Tom is probably the most distant, as he is obsessed with his own love tangles and doesn't care much about the antics of his family, on the surface; at the end of the novel, when a serious crisis occurs, his concern for his mother surfaces. In summation, these people love each other and spar together, have problems and yet are still united as a family.

The plot is not driven by action so much as it is by character development. Louisa is infatuated with a local priest. Kate and Dermot live for their love, but circle warily around issues that strain their relationship, such as their age difference, or Dermot's entrepreneur ideas that are supposed to earn money but always fail, or Dermot's mom who is pressuring Dermot to get a real job and accusing Kate of ruining him. Tom leaves his playboy ways when he falls hopelessly in love with Araminta. Araminta is a daughter of an old friend of the family, Charles Thornton. Kate was best friends with his wife, Dorothea, until she died. Charles and his daughter have been away since the death. Their return marks a transition point in the novel, emphasized by the novel's format, divided in two sections - the second part is called "The Return of the Thorntons". The first part sets up the dynamics of the family, and the second shows the strain and change that is ushered in by interactions with two new players in their world, Charles and Araminta.

Kate is drawn to Charles, because they are old friends, because he knew her husband, because she loved his wife. She is both refreshed and alarmed by the nostalgic memories he evokes. Dermot is alarmed, too. He is jealous of Charles, and resents their shared memories. Also, he is keenly aware of the discrepancy between him and Kate when Charles is around. Not just his age, but also his education and his cultural knowledge. Meanwhile, Tom is having his own life upheavals, as he falls in love with Araminta. For the first time, Tom is not the one in charge; Araminta is cool and distant, and even when she makes love to him, he still feels like he doesn't fully have her with him. Tom struggles, Louisa returns to school, and Kate and Dermot's relationship slowly deteriorates, while Ethel observes.

The characters are fantastic in this novel. Such complex people with flaws, all of whom I could relate to (well, by the end of the novel I was out of patience with Dermot and out of sympathy, too). Little action occurs, except for the crisis at the end of the book, but the story never drags because of the interactions between the characters and their evolution. The themes of love and change, of age, and of family are worked out with subtlety and beauty. I love the ending, despite the sorrow involved. Kate is a fantastic woman - not perfect, admittedly, but still fantastic - and I was pleased that a great part of the narrative revolved around her. Taylor is a craftsmith with words, painting beautiful images and developing dialogue that is real and pregnant with meaning. I enjoyed this book, it was a pleasant read that reminded me of sunny afternoons. I missed some of the tension that I found in the first book I read by her, A View of the Harbour, but still appreciated all of its charms. I am grateful to the Virago press for introducing me to this author, and look forward to perusing more of her work. ( )
2 vote nmhale | Nov 1, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Clapp, SusannahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, Elisabeth RussellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'After all, I am not a young girl to be intimidated by her,' Kate decided, as she waited outside her mother-in-law's house.
'She is a young woman who looks as if she never had to wash her gloves!' (Introduction)
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Book description
' "You taste of rain," he said, kissing her. "People say I married her for her money,"a he thought contentedly, and for the moment was full of the self-respect that loving her had given him.' Kate Heron is a wealthy charming widow who marries a man ten years her junior: the attractive, feckless Dermot. They live in commuter country, an hour from London. Theirs is an unconventional marriage, but a happy one. Their special love arms them against the disapproval of conservative friends and neighbors - until the return of Kate's old friend Charles, intelligent, kind, now widowed with a beautiful daughter. Happily, she watches as their two families are drawn together, finding his presence reassuringly familiar. But then one night she dreams a strange and sensual dream: a dream that disturbs the calm surface of their friendship - foreshadowing dramas fate holds in store for them all.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860683508, Paperback)

Kate Heron, a wealthy, charming widow, has married a man ten years her junior, the attractive and feckless Dermot. Their special love arms them against the disapproval of conservative friends and neighbors—until the return of Kate's old friend Charles, intelligent, kind, and now widowed with a beautiful daughter. At first Kate watches happily as the two families are drawn together, only dimly aware of the subtle undercurrents beginning to disturb the calm surface of their friendship. Before long, however, even she cannot ignore the gathering storm.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Kate marries a man who is 10 years her junior. Their love arms them against the disapproval - until the return of Kate's old friend, Charles, now widowed with a daughter. At first she watches happily as the two families are drawn together, but one night she has a dream.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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