Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor
The story begins with Amy and Nick on holiday in Istanbul. They are middle-aged and middle-class. Their vacation spot enthralls Nick much more than his wife which leads to bickering. Add to that an American tourist named Martha, who has attached herself to the couple and you have a storm brewing.
Despite being written in the mid-seventies, there is an earlier feel to the story such as when Nick initiates an early night by saying 'Your bed, I think,' he said. 'I always think that's more polite.'
It's no secret that Nick dies while on holiday. The ever-present Martha imposes her assistance. Visits to the family home and a string of correspondence creates a bond which provides each woman with someone to talk to during difficult times. But Martha is brash, unkempt and more bohemian than Amy is comfortable with and eventually she wishes the contact would cease.
There are two granddaughters by Amy's son, James and his wife, Maggie. Dora and Isobel irritated me in the beginning with their insolent behaviour and manipulative ways. But in that subtle way of Taylor's, she had me absolutely charmed and laughing at their antics by the end of the book. I was thrilled to read in the afterword by Taylor's daughter, Joanna, that some of their lines were taken from things she had said as a child to her mother.
A relationship with the family doctor and close friend, Gareth Lloyd, blossoms and a tragic twist towards the end of the book made me gasp. Many of the characters experience blame due to a variety of reasons making the title a perfect one. I did not want this story to end and it was poignant to read that Taylor wrote with determination to finish before dying of cancer. As I wrote earlier, she died before this book was published and selfishly, I am quite ticked when talented authors are taken too soon.
There really was nothing else for it, despite a personal challenge to read from my shelves I promptly ordered two more books by this truly sublime author.