I found this book in a second hand book store while on holiday. I do like Elizabeth Taylor novels – such understated, character driven stories.
“Spending the holiday with friends, as she has for many years, Camilla finds that their private absorptions – Frances with he painting and Liz with her baby – seem to exclude her from the gossipy intimacies of previous summers. Anxious that she will remain encased in her solitary life as a school secretary, Camilla steps into an unlikely liaison with Richard Elton, a handsome, assured – and dangerous – liar. Replete with the subtle wit that is her hallmark, and a tender and perfectly evoked portrait of friendship between women, A Wreath of Roses is nonetheless Elizabeth Taylor’s darkest novel: an astute exploration of the fear of loneliness and its emotional armour.”
This novel is dark. For me it was about the choices women make in their lives and where those choices have taken them. Frances, an elderly solitary woman, is finally able to concentrate on her painting after a lifetime of working as a governess. From the outside her life might look lonely and confined, but she feels she has truly lived and her art provides her with all of her emotional needs. And there is Liz recently married and newly a mother. She complains about her husband and is very anxious about her son. It doesn’t seem a particularly successful marriage, however, when Arthur enters the scene it all seems better and I’m sure with time everything will be fine. And then there is Camilla. She is definitely lonely and thinks she has missed all her opportunity to meet a man. She meets the mysterious Richard Elton and begins a somewhat clandestine affair. She seems drawn to him despite understanding that he really is not her ‘type’. He is a bit sinister and we the reader have insights into his character that Camilla does not. Will she make a terrible mistake?
I really enjoyed this novel – I loved how Richard seemed menacing even though everything he did was ordinary. I also enjoyed Frances inner thoughts about her art…
Then, one day, when she was a young woman, she suddenly and as if by chance, related her talent to her genius. She cast away the dressing up clothes and willed herself into what she painted. She threw away her personality and it changed. The nervous effort was extreme, for the difference was the distance between charades at parties and Sarah Bernhardt as Phedre.
I think this book is beautiful, well written and thought provoking.
I can only find one other review …