Sunday, October 26, 2014

In a Summer Season by British novelist Elizabeth Taylor

Known as an underrated writer and contemporary of Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Bowen and Rosamond Lehmann, among others, British novelist Elizabeth Taylor wrote several short story collections and twelve novels. Thanks to Virago, her work is widely available today. Recently, I read her eighth novel, In a Summer Season, published in 1961.

The story takes place in an English village during the early 1960s. Taylor uses the first section of the book to introduce the characters. Kate Heron is in her forties with two children. Her son, Sam, is in his early twenties and working for his grandfather, while her daughter, Louisa, is sixteen and home from boarding school for the summer. Kate is married to her second husband, Dermot, ten years younger than she, and who is adrift in his life, not able to latch on to a career or even a job, for that matter. Also living in the house is cello playing Aunt Ethel, who is an interested observer of events, especially the state of Kate's marriage. Aunt Ethel relays all to her friend, Gertrude. Mrs. Meacock is the cook who loves preparing American meals.

The action takes place in the second part of the book when Charles and his daughter, Araminta, move back to their old house in the village. When Kate's first husband was alive, he and Kate were good friends with Charles and his wife, Dorothea, but Dorothea has recently passed away. 

The presence of Charles and Araminta sets certain events in motion. Tom, accustomed to girls pursuing him, becomes love struck over the quirky yet sexy aspiring model, Araminta. She enjoys being aloof. She is also noticed by Dermot. Meanwhile, with Charles in her life again, Kate is reminded of old feelings and realizes that she has more in common with Charles than Dermot. As Aunt Ethel and Gertrude predicted, Kate needs more than a physical relationship with a man.

What I liked about In a Summer Season was how the story takes place against the backdrop of Taylor's subtle comedy where she has a light touch. She creates believable characters and gets inside their hearts and minds in a way that made me enjoy getting to know them. Even Dermot, who I was prepared to dislike, is someone I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for. The story is resolved in a way I had not anticipated with a real surprise of an ending.

I recommend In a Summer Season and look forward to reading more by Elizabeth Taylor.

While I was reading this book, I wondered about Taylor's life and if having the name Elizabeth Taylor was a hindrance to her writing career. Then I discovered a biography, The Other Elizabeth Taylor by Nicola Beauman, from 2009, which is going on my TBR pile:

Have you read In a Summer Season or any of Elizabeth Taylor's work?


  1. I'd never even heard of Elizabeth Taylor until I started blogging. Finally purchased her novel A Game of Hide and Seek a couple of years ago, but it is still unread on my shelf. In a Summer Season also wonderful. I'll need to make a point of reading her in 2015!

    1. Hi, JoAnn! I first read about Elizabeth Taylor in a Daily Telegraph article a couple of years, I had to get In a Summer Season, but it has been on my bookshelf since then. I love her writing so much that I'll be reading more of Elizabeth Taylor's novels in 2015, too! Thanks for your comment!