by Elizabeth Taylor
2012 by NYRB Classics 272 pages / orig. 1957
Rating:  (after discussion)

Although Angel is an interesting book,  I was somewhat disappointed because I really enjoyed Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and had read that this was Taylor’s best work – maybe it meant best known – or best seller?    It wasn’t as nearly as thematically rich or  subtle.   I did enjoy it in spite of that –

The story is supposedly  based on the life of Marie Carelli, a very popular fiction writer of the early 20th century.  The movie version encouraged that idea but it may not be really accurate.  I see a very loose connection but Taylor certainly did embroider.  Seems to me that the Carelli story would simply be the inspiration.

Angel Devereaux is born in a poor neighborhood not too far from London and raised by her widowed mother, a shopkeeper.   She grows up willful and arrogant and determined never to let anyone get the better of her.  She will cut off her nose to spite her face.  At age 15 she quit school to live out her daydreams in writing.  The books sold – and were horrifically criticized – and sold some more.  Angel becomes a very rich woman,  buys a very large house,  and is horrendously self-centered.  She tries at all times to act like a wealthy aristocrat but she only comes off as being mean.

This character is one of the worst female characters in all of Western literature – she compares only to Madam Bovary and Cathy of East of Eden.   Yet she’s complex and occasionally sympathetic.

I don’t really think there’s too much in the way of themes here – it’s a character driven novel with a fair plot.

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