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A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

A Game of Hide and Seek (1951)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4131736,714 (4.02)1 / 134

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
The next installment in my exploration of the works of Elizabeth Taylor -- the British writer, not the lovely American actress – is A Game of Hide and Seek. Kingsley Amis. Antonio Fraser, Hillary Mantel – among others -- tout her works as among the best of the 20th century. The more of her works I read, the more I side with these opinions. It is a curious story of a two teenagers who form a deep and innocent bond. However, their paths take them in different directions, and it becomes anything but a children’s summer diversion.

This novel reminds me of 19th century novelists, such as Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. The narrative is understated with detailed probes into the psyche of Harriet. In the “Introduction” by Caleb Crain, he wrote, “Perhaps A Game of Hide and Seek should be understood in the spirit of a Brontë novel, as representing a world in which love is more easily distinguished by the shadows it throws than by any light it may cast” (xi).

I found myself enchanted from the first page. Taylor wrote, “Sometimes in the long summer’s evenings, which are so marked a part of our youth, Harriet and Vesey played hide-and-seek with the younger children, running across the tufted meadows, their shoes yellow with the pollen of butter cups. They could not run fast across those uneven fields; nor did they wish to, since to find the hiding children was to lose their time together, to run faster was to run away from one another. The jog-trot was a game devised from shyness and uncertainty. Neither dared to assume the other wished to pause, and inexperience barred them both from testing this” (3). I am fast becoming an avid admirer of this wonderful writer; however, collecting her 12 novels, 8 short story collections, and a children’s book, will be a daunting task – I only own two novels and a short story collection. That is what retirement will be all about to my mind.

Here is an example of Harriet’s musings. Taylor wrote, “After their walk in the woods, Harriet faced the day’s page uncertainly. There was either far too much space or only one hundredth part enough. Time had expanded and contracted abnormally. That morning and all her childhood seemed the same distance away. ‘I cannot put down what happened this evening,’ she wrote mysteriously. ‘Nor is there any need, for I shall remember all my life.’ And, although she was so mysterious, she was right. Much of those diaries would puzzle her when she turned their pages in middle age, old age; many allusions would be meaningless; week after week would seem to have been wiped away: but that one entry, so proudly cryptic, would always evoke the evening in the woods, the shadows, the layers of leaves shutting out the sky, the bronze mosses at the foot of the trees, the floating sound their voices had, and that explosive, echoing cry of the cuckoo. She would remember writing the words in the little candlelit bedroom” (26-27).

To give Vesey his due, Taylor adds, “He needed Harriet for his own reasons, to give him confidence and peace. In the shelter of her love, he hoped to have a second chance, to turn his personality away from what he most hated in himself, to try to find dignity before it was too late. Playing the fool bored him. With the failure of school behind him, he hoped to shake off the tedious habit” (30).

Some of Taylor’s works are available from the The New York Review of Books. try Elizabeth Taylor’s A Game of Hide and Seek, and find the wonderful world of her imagination, and then help revive interest in this amazing writer. 5 stars.

--Jim, 12/11/16
( )
2 vote rmckeown | Jan 7, 2017 |
This seems to be one of Taylor's best-known novels. Superficially it's a reworking of the plot of Brief encounter - a happily-married woman finds she's desperately in love with Another Man. Taylor clearly enjoys planting a string of tongue-in-cheek references to the recent film in the text to show us that she's well aware of this overlap - and incidentally diverting any suspicion that there might have been such a situation in her own life (as we now know there was). But if it's Brief encounter, then it's Brief encounter as it would have been if they'd got E.M. Forster to do it instead of Noel Coward. There are all kinds of extra layers of frustration and miscommunication (especially between generations) going on alongside the main storyline, there is more ambiguity than you can shake a stick at, and there's a gloriously undefined ending where you have to decide for yourself how it all might have worked out. And of course a whole lot of wonderfully subversive lines, and some absolutely beautiful set-piece scenes. There may be a few bits of the book that feel like pastiche Forster, but then you get something like the scene in the café with the pork chops and you think "only Taylor could have written this". ( )
2 vote thorold | Aug 15, 2016 |
a two part book, the first part is the friendship and relationship of Harriet and Vesey as teenagers. they are in love but aren't able to express or experience it. both very emotionally imature. the second part is there relationship in middle age. Harriet is married, not a bad marriage but one that lacks passion. Vesey, is a struggling actor, he re enters her life. it is very sad at the end, actually there is very little joy in this book ( )
  michaelbartley | Feb 28, 2015 |
i didn't like this as much as the other 2 i have read. nobody was very likeable. nobody i could identify with. but it takes courage to write a story like this although i don't quite know why harriet seems so unattractive. ( )
  mahallett | Dec 27, 2014 |
Hide and Seek is a novel of passion and star-crossed love. It begins with two teenagers, Harriet and Vesey. Harriet is a timid girl and Vesey, while also shy, is prone to outbursts of malice that may be found in episodes like his excessive teasing of the housekeeper. Vesey dreams of writing great literature and has the mind to make that possible while Harriet's dreams are somewhat less. She is unambitious and both her desire and her mind fail her when necessary to pass the exams for entrance to university. Vesey is dramatic and manipulative, an overcompensation for the haphazard affections of his self-centered mother. In their teens, playing complicated games with the younger cousins Harriet is meant to be babysitting, the two fall in love; on Harriet’s end, swooningly and awkwardly. The first part of Hide and Seek is all about the games they play. Harriet's developing passion for Vesey and her own sexual awakening elicit a response from Vesey, but his mood swings and a penchant for the dramatic combined with a manipulative manner that seems like indifference is painful for Harriet. The two are splintered both by their own flaws—Vesey’s insensitivity, Harriet’s inability to openly stake a claim—and by the ungenerous interventions of their elders. Vesey is packed off to university, while Harriet starts a new job in a gown shop and falls into a relationship with Charles Jephcott, “an elderly man of about thirty-five,” out of passivity and loneliness. After Vesey stands her up at a dance—and after her mother dies, and Charles tends her through her grief—Harriet submits to marrying Charles.

The second part of the novel begins sixteen years later. Harriet has a teenage-daughter, Betsy, and is in a pleasant if somewhat passionless marriage when Vesey returns. She has spent the time attempting to make up for not loving her husband through feverish housekeeping: “When she married Charles, she had seemed to wed also a social order. A convert to it, and to provincial life, and keeping house, she had pursued it fanatically and as if she feared censure.” Vesey, meanwhile, is a failing actor, playing Laertes in gaudy productions of Hamlet. When they reconnect, his old cruel arrogance has been dissolved by time and misfortune, and Harriet begins risking her hard-won, if deadening, stability to meet him in sordid railway cafes and on park benches. They both feel, as Vesey puts it to himself, the “desire to unpack his life in her presence, to lay before her treasure after treasure (or, rather, loss, laughter, disappointment).” On the home front Charles finds that, "As his relations with other people improved, his life with Harriet deteriorated." Unfortunately Betsy discovers hints of the affair and her life, which was much more promising than her mother's at the same age, begins to unravel. Any imagined possibilities for Harriet and Vesey as a reunited couple also begin to come apart. The ending is ambiguous but did not disappoint in being so.

What impressed me was the characterization which brought the main players alive but made the supporting roles, like Harriet's mother, Vesey's Uncle Hugo, and Betsy's drama teacher, interesting as well. Taylor's prose reminded me of Anita Brookner or Barbara Pym in its lucid smoothness. The combination of psychological insight and great prose makes this a memorable novel from a British author who should be better known. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | May 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
A Game of Hide and Seek showcases much of what makes Taylor a great novelist: piercing insight, a keen wit and a genuine sense of feeling for her characters. All this and not a chimp in sight.
This is a deliberately quiet novel and a very impressive one, too.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Taylor, ElizabethAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crain, CalebIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, Elizabeth JaneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sometimes in the long summer's evenings, which are so marked a part of our youth, Harriet and Vesey played hide-and-seek with the younger children, running across the tufted meadows, their shoes yellow with the pollen of buttercups.
Elizabeth Taylor did not receive very much attention from the public during her lifetime, although she was much appreciated by her peers - notably Elizabeth Bowen and Ivy Compton-Burnett. (Introduction)
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Book description
"I see why you married him. It was sensible of you. It was the best thing you could do, after all. People do marry because they are frightened."
During these summer games of hide-and-seek Harriet falls in love with Vesey and his elusive, teasing ways. When he goes to Oxford, she cherishes his photograph and waits for the letter which doesn't come. Then Charles enters her life, a solid and reliable solicitor, and Harriet stifles her imaginings. With Charles and their daughter, she excels at respectability: its crimson-papered walls, remembered birthdays and jars of lilacs. But when Vesey reappears, her marriage seems to melt into nothing. Harriet is older, it is much too late, but she is still in love with him. First published in 1958, this is Elizabeth Taylor's subtlest and finest work.
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"Harriet and Vesey meet when they are teenagers, and their love is as intense and instantaneous as it is innocent. But they are young. All life still lies ahead. Vesey heads off hopefully to pursue a career as an actor. Harriet marries and has a child, becoming a settled member of suburban society. And then Vesey returns, the worse for the wear, and with him the love whose memory they have both sentimentally cherished, and even after so much has happened it cannot be denied. But things are not at all as they used to be. Love, it seems, is hardly designed to survive life."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590174968, 1590175107

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