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In a Summer Season (A Virago Modern…
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In a Summer Season (A Virago Modern Classics) (original 1961; edition 2006)

by Elizabeth Taylor (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4892150,239 (3.88)1 / 117
"You taste of rain," he said, kissing her. "People say I married her for her money," 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, much to the disapproval of friends and neighbours, a man ten years her junior: the attractive, feckless Dermot. Then comes the return of Kate's old friend Charles - intelligent, kind and now widowed, with his beautiful young daughter. Kate watches happily as their two families are drawn together, finding his presence reassuringly familiar, but slowly she becomes aware of subtle undercurrents that begin to disturb the calm surface of their friendship. Before long, even she cannot ignore the gathering storm . . .… (more)
Member:almin
Title:In a Summer Season (A Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Elizabeth Taylor (Author)
Info:Virago UK (2006), Edition: New, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, Currently Own, Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:British Fiction, 2024 Read

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In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor (1961)

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» See also 117 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Rereading this for my RL book group. Probably read about 10 years ago, didn't remember it a bit.

For me one of her least engaging novels, over the years I have read all bar 1. I really didn't warm to any of the characters, except maybe Lou (Louise) the 19 year old daughter. I didn't feel I really knew the central character Kate, but maybe that was the point, and her annoying younger 2nd husband Dermot ... why, I kept asking myself.

The older characters: Edwina, Aunt Ethel (I hate when writers give characters names beginning with the same letter) and Charles were more fully drawn. Not the novel to start with I'd suggest.

My favourite of hers is [A View of the Harbour] which I have read several times (I love the tone), and started me reading her work. ( )
  Caroline_McElwee | Mar 5, 2024 |
My second Elizabeth Taylor novel, I enjoyed it as much as the first (Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont), it is more character study and less plot. I love her character's dialogue saying one thing but their thoughts say the complete opposite...can be quite funny at times. Her dinner table conversations are numerous and she switches between conversations so smoothly I was never confused as to who was talking.

I listened to a podcast about Taylor, her grandson revealed that she would go to restaurants alone so she could eavesdrop on conversations as part of her research. She definitely honed that skill....

The intoduction (I usually read those after I've read the book as I think sometimes they spoil the story) was confusing and added nothing to my enjoyment of the book.

Recommend... ( )
  almin | Feb 28, 2024 |
not as overtly dark as previous read, brilliant writing of slow decay ( )
  ChrisGreenDog | Apr 14, 2023 |
Set in 1950s England, Taylor’s novel revolves around Kate Heron, a well-to-do widow in her early forties who has quickly remarried after the death of her children’s father. Her new husband, Dermot, is ten years her junior. He’s a ne’er-do-well who’s managed to coast through life on looks and charm. Edwina, his mother, has swept in periodically to rescue him financially. Now he’s got Kate to keep him . . . though he finds it humiliating to ask her for money. Dermot’s charisma is wearing thin, while his phoney Irish brogue is just wearing. He’s drifted along purposelessly, never settling down to any sort of gainful employment. His latest scheme is growing mushrooms in a shed full of manure on Kate’s property. Yes, Taylor retains her sense of humour in depicting his character.

Kate and Dermot live with Kate’s 22-year-old, restless son, Tom—a bit of a Dermot himself—who’s employed by his irascible self-made grandfather at the factory business the old man spent his life building. There’s also Kate’s 16-year-old daughter Louisa (“Lou”) who’s home for school holidays; Ethel, an elderly spinster aunt, former teacher, and hanger-on; and their cook, Mrs. Meacock, an avid scrapbooker. They all live a comfortable life in a Thames Valley London-commuter-belt village. The ease of their existence is courtesy of Kate’s deceased husband, Alan, who appears to have been a successful businessman. If anyone still grieves Alan, it’s not in evidence. (It’s unclear how long ago he actually died or from what.)

There’s lots of speculation as to why Kate married Dermot—and plenty of community disapproval. Her mothering role now mostly ended, she likely felt empty and at loose ends, conjectures the young curate, Father Blizzard. It’s due to sex, writes Aunt Ethel to her old suffragette friend, Gertrude. Ethel gives the marriage five years, by which time the “physical side” will have certainly subsided. No, it’s all down to jealousy, Louisa opines to the curate: Tom had been off having fun with one girlfriend after another, paying little attention to Kate, so she went for a combo boyfriend/son figure who’d take her out and about and make her feel young again. Taylor leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that Dermot satisfies Kate’s womanly desires, perhaps in a way her first husband did not. Having married her, Dermot’s given her a boost—but also made her anxious about her age. The grey hairs coming in are worrisome.

This being Taylor, In a Summer Season is an ensemble piece: the reader is privy to the stories, small challenges, and mundane miseries of a supporting cast of characters. Louisa has found religion via her infatuation with the young Anglican clergyman who’s too high-church for most in the village and plans to leave—to join the Catholics, heaven forbid! Tom falls for Araminta (“Minty”), the pretty flibbertigibbet daughter of Charles and Dorothea Thornton, his parents’ old friends. (Dorothea died around the same time as Alan, and her bereaved husband and daughter who’d left the Thames Valley to go abroad for a time have now returned.) Aunt Ethel, spends her days sending written reports to her friend down in Cornwall on the petty drama of Kate and Dermot’s relationship. When not preparing her less-than-savoury American-inspired meals, Mrs. Meacock dreams of overseas adventures and culinary responsibilities elsewhere.

While Taylor’s writing is reliably fluent, this novel is, on the whole, a rather bland one, very light on incident. Kate is a dull and occasionally exasperatingly stupid woman; unsympathetic Dermot the drifter’s plight is less than compelling; Tom and Minty’s love neither convinces nor interests. I found Lou and Ethel mildly engaging, but not enough to actually save the book. I really didn’t care what happened to any of these people. This is not a good thing in a character-driven novel.

The significant event upon which the novel turns is Charles and Minty’s coming back to the village . Mature, gentlemanly, kind Charles is, of course, a stark contrast to Dermot. His ditzy daughter in her ridiculous garments is training to be a model. She becomes Tom’s obsession. A “tragedy”—can one even call it that when none of these characters evokes much sympathy or even interest?—occurs in the eleventh hour, hastily clearing out inconvenient characters so that all may resolve tidily.

A few years ago, I took part in a reading group that worked its way through Taylor’s novels. While I admire the author’s perceptive, sometimes sardonic writing and do like two or three of her novels, reading several in a row was too much of a muchness. I left the group before reading In a Summer Season. The long break from Taylor allowed me to finally take on the only novel of hers I hadn’t read. Unfortunately, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for it. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Dec 18, 2022 |
Elizabeth Taylor is one of the most deceptively quiet writers I have ever encountered. You read her books with a sense that you are just peeking in on someone’s life. There is nothing major going on, much of the book is spent eavesdropping over the serving of tea or the setting of dinner placements, but there is a kind of electricity that hovers over everything, a testament that a storm is brewing somewhere and someone should be fastening down any loose items that might blow away.

I want to say that Taylor expends all her energies on character development, but that would imply that there is not a plot, and when you look back from the last pages, you know there always was more action going on than your conscious mind acknowledged. The meat is there, though, in the intricate characters, their subtle imperfections, their silent struggles, their mysterious undercurrents.

There are some very serious topics being explored in these everyday lives. Amid the teacups, we are often treated to the inner souls of these people and their struggle to find meaning in lives that can appear to be too idle.

‘We’re all of us just passing time,’ she thought, feeling irritated by the sound. A lack of purpose was an imperfection Dermot may have introduced. It seemed to her that it was worse for herself, without religion, to be squandering her life, expecting no other and chilled by the passage of time.

When we come into this novel, we are introduced to an upper middle class English family. Kate Heron is a widow, remarried to a younger man, Dermot, who is unemployed and somewhat insecure. Living with them are her children by the first marriage, twenty-two year old Tom, who struggles to please his grandfather, who has him in training to take over the family business; sixteen year old Louisa, who is suffering from her first “love” with the local curate; Kate’s aunt Ethel, who spends most of her time prying into the affairs of the others; and the cook/housekeeper, Mrs. Meacock, who dreams of traveling abroad and writing a book of inspirational sayings. Into this motley crew come the Thorntons, Charles and Araminta, the husband and daughter of Kate’s deceased best friend. These two extra personalities are what serve as the catalyst for all the carefully repressed anxieties to flame in the sweltering summer heat.

What goes on between these individuals is serious, without doubt. Not all of the novel is serious, however, for we have been gifted the marvelous Aunt Ethel, who made me laugh more than once. I had a very vivid image of her, dwarfed by the cello she is constantly carrying up and down the stairs, so that it will not be seen as an intrusion upon the family space, and slipping into rooms where she disappears into the wallpaper. She is constantly whipping off letters, teeming with family secrets, to her friend, Gertrude. They are peppered with other bits of wisdom, the two spinsters share, such as this,

In Mediterranean countries as one knows, the sun brings girls to maturity much earlier—and I have my own theory that the Vitamin E in ripe olives has a stimulating effect on the sexual organs.

Another element that Taylor handles with perfection is the subtle, but very real, differences between the generations, from the naive love-sickness of Lou to the thorny recognition of aging that Kate finds in herself. With Dermot planted right between the young and the old, and unable to easily fit into either group, there is a poignantly heightened awareness of the divide. Each of Taylor’s characters, young or old, is drawn with an authenticity that brings them to life, exposing their inner thoughts, insecurities and dreams with a kind and loving hand. Even the minor characters, such as the curate and Dermot’s mother, are fully-realized and stir sympathies and understanding.

In a Summer Season is a novel about time and timing, about love and loss, about finding the place where you fit or being unable to. There are family tensions and stirrings of recognition that spring from natural sources, the kind of feelings each of us has probably known at one time or the other in the course of our lives. There are fragile hearts, trying not to be damaged and inevitably damaging others, and a sense that life is a series of changes and regardless of our intents or wishes, relationships morph, and grow or die.

Taylor addresses all of this with such a spartan style in which not a word or thought is wasted. It is this very restraint that makes the impact of her writing so effective. My appreciation for her grows with each of her novels I read, and I am looking forward with relish to the next one.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Taylor, Elizabethprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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"You taste of rain," he said, kissing her. "People say I married her for her money," 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, much to the disapproval of friends and neighbours, a man ten years her junior: the attractive, feckless Dermot. Then comes the return of Kate's old friend Charles - intelligent, kind and now widowed, with his beautiful young daughter. Kate watches happily as their two families are drawn together, finding his presence reassuringly familiar, but slowly she becomes aware of subtle undercurrents that begin to disturb the calm surface of their friendship. Before long, even she cannot ignore the gathering storm . . .

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' "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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