In a Summer Season
by Elizabeth Taylor
First published in 1961, IN A SUMMER SEASON is now in its 12th reprint. If you have not yet discovered Elizabeth Taylor, I’d urge you to read this, one of her best-loved novels. Her canvas is small – she writes about mid-twentieth century domestic life in the home counties – but before you yawn and move on to something more hip and happening, pick it up and read a few pages. I think you’ll want to keep on reading.
Kate Heron is a widow in early middle age whose second husband, Dermot, is ten years younger than herself. He is good-looking and charming but feckless: he has never held down a job for more than a couple of weeks and is very fond of a drink. It seems to be accepted wisdom that he married her for her money, she married him out of lust and once the joys of the ‘physical side’ have been spent (as they inevitably will) she will be disillusioned with him. The truth is of course more complicated than that and becomes apparent over the course of the searing dog-days of summer.
Elizabeth Taylor has been compared to Jane Austen for her perception and wit and, similarly, it is a real pleasure to keep company with her characters. They include Ethel, the resident maiden aunt and one-time suffragette, whose letters to her friend, Gertrude, provide a running commentary on the goings on in the house; Kate’s earnest and typically critical adolescent daughter, Louisa, who has lost her heart to the young curate, Father Blizzard; and Mrs Meacock, the cook, whose “little gusts of song are shaken from her” and who is compiling a book of ‘Five Thousand and One Witty and Humorous Sayings’ (snippets that presently fill a great many notebooks and cardboard boxes in her bedroom).
Published by Virago Modern Classics, 224pp.