Monday, March 30, 2015

Subtle and Deceptively Simple: The Soul of Kindness by Elizabeth Taylor

Everyone probably knows a person like Flora, the main character of British novelist Elizabeth Taylor's The Soul of Kindness (1964). People are drawn to Flora because of her beauty and charm, the world revolves around her, and she has a knack for always getting her way. She would never think of herself as a manipulator. She sees herself as a caring person, but her good works involve managing other people's lives. She simply thinks she knows what's best for everyone.

The people in Flora's circle go along with her, mainly because it's easier, and because no one wants to see Flora upset. There are several victims of Flora's kindness: her father-in-law, Percy (my favorite character in the book) and his mistress, Barbara; Flora's friend, Meg, and her brother, aspiring actor Kit; Flora's husband, Richard; the struggling writer, Patrick; and Flora's own mother, Mrs. Secretan. Then someone comes along who refuses to be a follower but has the distance and the perspective to see Flora in a way that others do not--Liz, a brash Bohemian artist. Liz's actions throw Flora's world into a tailspin. 

Taylor creates interesting characters, and even the secondary characters are compelling. What I love about the novel is that the writing is subtle. Taylor weaves her story in a deceptively simple way. Some of Flora's actions are far-reaching, and it's fascinating to see how intertwined the lives of the characters become. Taylor is a masterful writer, and The Soul of Kindness is a book that I'll read again.

Have you read The Soul of Kindness or any of Elizabeth Taylor's novels?


  1. I have read many of her novels....and enjoyed them all but certainly, The Soul of Kindness remains a favourite. It is that "deceptive simplicity" you speak about that makes it ( and them all) so wonderful. Quiet powerful storytelling

  2. I have not read Elizabeth Taylor... yet. A Game of Hide and Seek is on my shelf, but this one appeals to me even more. Thanks for your review.