Sunday, August 23, 2009

In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor

40. In a Summer Season
by Elizabeth Taylor
fiction, 1961
library book
finished, 8/23/09

I enjoyed the time I spent reading In a Summer Season until the last few pages. What a disappointing ending. Quick, dramatic, way too tidy, and unworthy of the story in the rest of the book. But that's just me. Maybe other people found it a perfect way to clear up certain situations. Indeed, the flap on the inside cover says,

... builds to a shattering climax and a totally right resolution

Glad I didn't read that first. I may have skipped the whole book and missed some really nice'domestic scene' writing. It is my first Elizabeth Taylor and I plan to read more, including Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, but if this happens again I will give up on the author.

We meet Kate whose beloved husband has died a while back. She is now married to a man ten years younger, who is the same amount of years older than her son. She also has a teenage daughter. An older maiden aunt lives with the family. So, we have several stages of life all under the same roof. Taylor does a good job of delineating between what people feel in the various decades. Kate and her husband Dermot seem quite in love to the reader, but there are portents of trouble. He can't seem to hold a job and is dependent on either his mother or his wife. Dermot, and Kate's son, Tom enjoy drinking and gambling together; more companions than stepfather and stepson. Louisa, the young daughter is infatuated with the local curate, who is thinking of leaving and becoming a Roman Catholic. The aunt Ethel is the observer who lets the reader know her opinions through conversations with, and letters to, her friend. The book follows each of these characters as they go about their lives one summertime. An old friend and his daughter come back to the area, bringing some emotional turmoil to various family members.

When I write it out like this it sounds rather dull, but it wasn't. The characters were well-drawn and I was interested in them. Yet, I was happier reading the book than when I thought about it afterward. Has that ever happened to you? I don't think it was just the ending that made me feel this way, but since closing the book, I found myself just as glad to be out of the company of these folks.

The book, published in 1961, offered foreshadowings of the times to come: a girl who is a model is very thin, yet is ravenous and eats all the time -probably bulemic; and there is talk of a view being spoiled by the building of houses.

I know there are some big Elizabeth Taylor fans out there, but I'm not sure I am one of them. As I said, I'll try Mrs Palfrey and maybe another one and see.

More reviews here and here.

And a review of a biography of Elizabeth Taylor here.


  1. Nan, A lttle off topic but a couple of weeks ago you mentioned a book by Dorothy Canfield called the Home-Maker, you said you re-read it periodically so I checked it out of the library here, it is a 1924 edition, and when I got almost to the end, page 327, discovered some pages missing. I enjoyed the novel very much, a very interesting approach to gender-cultural roles, and I think the ending is already clear to me but just in case there is a twist, would you check your copy and tell me how many pages I missed? I have enjoyed your blog for several months and have been slow to acknowledge the pleasure it gives me, so thank you very much for your delightful posts.

  2. An interesting review Nan, I've listened to the BBC play of In a Summer Season which I enjoyed but I've never read the book so don't know how true the play is too the book to add much to the discussion, I found this discussion of the book ...
    which together with yours has made me add this to my tbr list as I'm curious now about the ending!

    I have read "At Mrs Lippincote's" long ago but the only thing I can remember of it is that, although it wasn't the sort of book I usually read , I found it a relaxing satisfying read! I'll have to look at my old journals and see what I thought and perhaps reread it and see if I still think so. That'll keep me out of mischeif for a while.

  3. Is this the actress Elizabeth Taylor? If so I had no idea that she wrote anything.

  4. Grand Rapids Girl, I did mention the title - I took a beautiful old copy out of the library but I never got to read it. Gosh, I hope you can find who it is who does re-read it. Thank you very much for your kind words. They mean so much to me.

    Val, thanks - I'll add this review to my entry. It was a great one. I'll read At Mrs Lippincote's before too long.

    Oh, no Staci! You may read more about her in this excellent blog post:

  5. Haven't read this one. I will be interested in what you think about Mrs Palfrey. It is a long time since I read it, but I do remember enjoying it, and as I said before I thought the film was excellent.
    I'm still enjoying blueberries, bought for the first time, after your post on them a while ago, thank you.


  6. I meant to say how much a love your header, one can almost smell the sweet pea, a lovely experience.
    Also appreciate the longer links on the left of the page, that is so helpful, thank you so much.
    Google still won't recognise me!!


  7. I confess I haven't read any of Elizabeth Taylor, but the movie of Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is charming in a melancholy way.

  8. Carole, isn't that weird about google - sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. I visit a woman's blog who uses haloscan for comments, and sometimes I can't leave one, and other times I can. Ah, still some mysteries in the world. :<) So, so pleased about the blueberries! I won't be reading Mrs P for a while. I've bought some books recently and want to get going on them. The sweet peas are so very fragrant. Glad you like the longer links. I enjoy reading a bit of a post, too. And I'm just tickled you actually read and visit. I so hope that others do too, since they are all such wonderful blogs.

    Commonweeder, what a lovely description of the film.


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