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Blaming (1976)

by Elizabeth Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4091060,520 (3.79)2 / 159
While on holiday in Istanbul, tragedy strikes, and suddenly the comfortably middle-aged, middle-class Amy is left stranded and a widow. Martha, a young American novelist, kindly helps her, but upon their return to England, Amy is ungratefully reluctant to maintain their friendship--on home soil she realizes that in normal circumstances, Martha isn't the sort of person she would be friends with. But guilt is a hard taskmaster, and Martha has a way of getting under one's skin.… (more)
  1. 00
    The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books deal with friendships between two women, one newly widowed.
  2. 01
    Perfect Happiness by Penelope Lively (KayCliff)
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» See also 159 mentions

English (9)  Danish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Reason Read: Reading 1001 Dec botm
This is the last book written by English author Elizabeth Taylor and she wrote this while dying and it was published after her death. This story explores illness, death, and dying. The title tells us that this book will explore "blaming". ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 16, 2022 |
Every once and awhile a book comes along that just hits all the right notes, and for me, Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor was such a book. The story is about death and widowhood. It explores the feelings of bereavement; the anger, resentment, loneliness, helplessness and boredom over the course of the first winter after the main character lost her husband while on a Mediterranean cruise. The author is able to evoke the feelings of pain and guilt that are all part and parcel of the grieving process. Although it may sound dark and dreary, there is humor, hope and compassion in this story as well.

This was my first book by Elizabeth Taylor and I am excited to discover more by this author. Her writing is intelligent, sympathetic and highly engaging. She illustrates what is going on under the surface, how people interact with each other, and is also able to insert gentle satire in her descriptions of the routines of life. She obviously knows and likes children as she captures their innocence, precociousness, and their ability to be unaware of how hilarious their thoughts and opinions can be.

I can’t really put my finger on why this book touched me so strongly and I don’t know if it would work as well for others. Her main character was tentative in her ways and a little resentful of the diminished choices that widowhood brought but the insights the author revealed of upper middle class English life made this book a very pleasurable read for me. ( )
3 vote DeltaQueen50 | May 6, 2018 |
Taylor's last novel, published posthumously. Amy, a middle-aged, middle-class woman, Englishly passive and reserved to an almost comical degree, unexpectedly becomes a widow and is drawn into an unlikely and rather unwanted friendship with Martha, a spontaneous, unconventional American. In the hands of most novelists this sort of situation would end happily, with Amy discovering her previously unrealised capacity for enjoying life, but this is Taylor (and not only that, but Taylor in the last months of her life), so it ends badly, and we are left to reflect on blame and guilt and the impossibility of paying our debts to the dead. Depressing, but beautifully written, and full of very perceptive detail, and some really spot-on dialogue. ( )
1 vote thorold | Aug 11, 2015 |
The final novel in the Librarything Virago group’s yearlong centenary readalong, it has been a fantastic reading event. Pop over to Laura’s blog to read Libraything member Dee’s post about what we have read and what we all thought.
Blaming was Elizabeth Taylor’s final novel written in something of a hurry during her final illness, when she knew that she was dying. It is a novel much more character driven than plot driven – as I think is much, if not all of her work. It is a novel about guilt, bereavement and blame.
Amy is a very recognisable Elizabeth Taylor character. Middle aged, middle class, she is often reserved, holding back her thoughts and feelings, taking little interest in people around her. While on holiday aboard ship with her husband Nick, Amy is suddenly widowed, left stranded and bewildered in a foreign country. Incapacitated by grief Amy is befriended by Martha an American writer, a little odd and certainly the type of woman who Amy would generally have had little time for. However Martha takes charge of Amy, accompanying her back to England, even though it means cutting her own holiday short. Once home, Martha proves rather difficult to shake off. Amy is surrounded by people, her son James and his wife Maggie with their two “little girls” the superb Isobel and Dora (brilliant child characters again from Elizabeth Taylor – she knew children so absolutely. Ernie Pounce a kind of male housekeeper who with his new false teeth and slight hypochondria loves nothing more than to fuss around after “madam,” and Gavin, physician and dear old friend, the widower of her one time best friend, calls in regularly. Amy feels no need of Martha, but feels guilty after the care Martha took of her, and allows Martha to visit. However it appears that Martha has some need of Amy, she is a rather lonely figure, happy to push herself forward, inviting herself to Amy’s house, questioning Amy and Ernie about their lives with no embarrassment – seemingly unaware of any awkwardness. Martha soon becomes a regular part of Amy’s life, and Amy finds she has rather less need of James and Maggie, much to their obvious relief. However when a vulnerable Martha herself is in need of support – she is tragically let down by Amy.
Often in Elizabeth Taylor’s novels, it is the peripheral characters that provide the humour that she injects so beautifully even into her more poignant works. In Blaming the gentle humour is provided by Ernie, and Amy’s grandchildren, the “little girls”
“To the children, first thing next morning, Maggie said, “I’m afraid dear Grandpa has died.”
“And gone to heaven,” Isobel said, as if her mother had left something out.
Maggie slightly inclined her head, not to be caught telling a lie by the God she did not believe in.
“And-Gone-To-Heaven” Isobel shouted, standing up, outraged, in her little bed.
“Yes of course.”
“Not everyone goes to heaven,” Dora, who was older said, “Egyptian mummies didn’t go. Or stuffed fishes.”
“No fishes never go,” Isobel agreed “sometimes I eat them. Chickens can’t go nor”
“I don’t really know about heaven,” Dora said in her considered way. “We haven’t done that at school yet. But I know they must go somewhere, or we’d be full up here. People coming and going all the time”
Published after her death this novel brings to a close the work of a remarkable writer; it seems a fitting note to end on. There is an obvious reflective poignancy to this novel, in her brilliantly understated way Elizabeth Taylor draws a discreet veil over her own work. In the afterword to my edition Joanna Kingham writes very movingly about her mother’s battle to finish this novel and the true story behind one of the incidents involving the children.
Incidentally did anyone else notice the marvellous homage to Jane Austen in the scene between James and Maggie at the beginning of Chapter 5? As soon as I read it this time (I know I missed it the first time I read Blaming) I thought ‘oh that’s just like in Sense and Sensibility!’ – And sure enough Jonathan Keates in the introduction to my edition (I read introductions after the novel) draws attention to the very same thing. ( )
4 vote Heaven-Ali | Dec 9, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Taylorprimary authorall editionscalculated
Keates, JonathanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kingham, JoannaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For JOHN with love
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Istanbul was cool.
The Englishness of the English novel in the twentieth century has a great deal to do with our native fondness for hierarchies. (Introduction)
My mother knew that she was dying when she wrote this novel. (Afterword)
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How to pass her time was her problem, and she wondered about other women alone in their houses, wishing their lives away.
“She knew that bereaved people are a great burden to others – no one finding words to say, or ways to behave.”
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While on holiday in Istanbul, tragedy strikes, and suddenly the comfortably middle-aged, middle-class Amy is left stranded and a widow. Martha, a young American novelist, kindly helps her, but upon their return to England, Amy is ungratefully reluctant to maintain their friendship--on home soil she realizes that in normal circumstances, Martha isn't the sort of person she would be friends with. But guilt is a hard taskmaster, and Martha has a way of getting under one's skin.

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"'It was a morning of autumn beauty, with sun on the yellow leaves, and she went for a walk along the towing path. How to pass her time was her problem, and she wondered about other women alone in their houses, wishing their lives away.'

When tragedy strikes Amy on holiday in Istanbul, she is 'adopted' by the kindly but rather slovenly American Martha, who lives in London. Upon their return to England, Amy is ungratefully reluctant to maintain their friendship, but the skeins of their existence seem inextricably linked. With its compelling cast of characters - including Ernie, ex-sailor turned housekeeper, and Amy's wonderfully precocious granddaughters - Blaming delights even as it unveils the most uncomfortable human emotions."
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