Book Review: Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

‘Her vanity had been stunned by the way in which her book had been received. No trumpets had come thrusting out from behind the clouds, proclaiming ‘genius’ and ‘masterpiece’. For a long time nothing at all happened, and then, slowly, the abuse and sarcasm had begun. The very passages which she had been most proud, had been printed as if they were richly humorous; her dialogue, her syntax, her view of life, her description of society were all seen to be part of some new and quite delicious joke. No one had wept, it seemed, when reading the funeral scene – unless it was with laughter.’⁣⁣

Angelica Deverell is 15 when she writes her first book, ‘Lady Irania’, which literature critics mock but the public loves. We will see how Angel starts her career. A stubborn and imaginative teenager grows up with a single mother who always treats her like a princess, Angel knows that she can always get what she wants. Angel lives in a poor neighbourhood, her mother owns a store and her aunt, who often visits them and pays for Angel’s expensive education, works as a maid for a lady. This lady gave birth to a girl, Angelica, in the same years Angel was to be born. Her aunt, who idolises her mistress, gives Angel the same name as her mistress’s daughter.

Angel grows up imagining what her life would be if she were born as the other Angel. She starts telling lies about her origin, that her mother came from a respectable family who disowned her because she had married Angel’s father for love. Her wild imagination often causes her troubles, but Angel is an intelligent girl, and she pours her imagination into stories. Her teachers often assume that Angel must have copied some passages from books for her writing homework – they simply could not believe a teenage girl could come up with such advanced vocabulary.

Angel, who acts like a true genius, decides to leave school and becomes a writer. She won’t listen to her mom and aunt and shut herself in her room for weeks and finally comes out when she’s done with her story. The first try is a failure, but Angel – very persistent – tries again. This time, she gets a reply, and soon, she becomes a published author.

If you think this is an inspirational story of how a young, smart girl fights for her art, you are wrong. Her publishers don’t take her seriously. They agree to publish her book because they know the public is hungry for a light and amusing novel for a guilty pleasure read. They are not wrong. Angel’s books are considered as a trashy read but very popular. Those who read them usually never admit that they do.

Angel mistakes the fame she gets and is frustrated why critics hate her books. However, her books are doing really well, and she becomes a very wealthy young woman. But Angel is not a humble person. She wants to show the world how well she is doing and how successful she is. And sometimes this is painful and hilarious to see.
This is my first Elizabeth Taylor book, and I absolutely loved it. It was such an amusing read – Angel is such an unforgettable character. She’s stubborn, vain, hardworking, rebel, a bully. Through this book, we look at the process of writing, and ‘Angel’ makes us think about art and how it is perceived. Taylor makes fun of Angel’s writing style, but she also makes us see how hard writing and being a writer can be. ⁣⁣
Hilary Mantel in the introduction says that Elizabeth Taylor had impeccable taste and devastatingly amusing (I laughed a lot at how Taylor described Angel demonic and illogical behaviour) and that in this book she tried to tell the readers that writers are monsters.

This edition of Angel by Elizabeth Taylor is published by Virago Press

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