It was around two and a half years ago that I first held this book in my hand but I didn't buy it. Flipping through the pages of Virago's beautiful cloth-covered anniversary edition I thought the story sounded charming enough but who was this Taylor woman? Tucking a copy of Diary of a Provincial Lady
under my arm instead, so began a reading venture which left me besotted with a certain group of women authors. Feeling in a small way as though I've come full circle, Elizabeth Taylor is now one of them.
A Game of Hide and Seek
is not so simply, a love story. Harriet and Vesey discover love's first blush as teenagers. Taylor is superb at showing us every glance, sigh and furrowed brow as we feel all the twinges of emotion between these two. There were so many instances of delightful phrasing or poignant moments that I scribbled a page and a half of notes! Showing a keen wit, Taylor had me laughing out loud one day on a train station platform when some shop girls decide to try hot wax to rid themselves of some facial hair:
'On the upper lip first, dear,' Miss Brimpton advised Harriet. 'Slightly downy, if I might say so,' Miss Lazenby said dreamily. 'I call mine a bloody moustache.'
'Well, that's up to you, dear, what you call it. No one else implied anything. It really does smart at first, doesn't it. I hope the juniors don't come up.'
Harriet obediently spread the melting wax round her mouth.
'I'm doing my beard as well,' Miss Lazenby said recklessly.
'Has that soup caught, Lovelace? Something smells funny.'
'Now rip it off,' Miss Brimpton commanded.
'You do it first, Harriet.'
'I can't. I'm afraid.'
Vesey was destined to be an actor with his dramatic airs and over the top gestures as a young man.
He would smoke with his head out of the bedroom window. In his mother's room one day he put on her jewellery, sniffed at her scent, varnished his nails, read a book on birth control, took six aspirins, then lay down like Chatterton on the window seat, his hand drooping to the floor.
When the housekeeper returned, he had half-opened his eyes. 'I am doing away with myself,' he had said. 'I have supped my full of horrors.'
Adorable as this behaviour is on a boy, Vesey is a bit of a Peter Pan in that he seems reluctant to grow up. Parting ways, Harriet gets on with her life, marrying a reliable older man, having a child and running a household. Events will bring Harriet and Vesey together every now and then over the years and with a simple 'hello', any other characters fall to the wayside. I was that riveted by the bond between Harriet and Vesey.
Some of my favourite scenes in this book were funny ones but this is not a humourous story. There is turmoil, responsibility, failure, expectation, denial and desire. A roller coaster of emotion written by an author so talented that I was laughing on one page and deeply moved by something on the next.
The ending was subtle and yet rich, with just enough theatrics that I imagined heavy red velvet curtains swishing across the last page. Without a doubt, there is more to be gleaned from this story upon a second reading. A wonderful story, a brilliant author.