The next installment in my exploration of the works of Elizabeth Taylor -- the British writer, not the lovely American actress – is A Game of Hide and Seek. Kingsley Amis. Antonio Fraser, Hillary Mantel – among others -- tout her works as among the best of the 20th century. The more of her works I read, the more I side with these opinions. It is a curious story of a two teenagers who form a deep and innocent bond. However, their paths take them in different directions, and it becomes anything but a children’s summer diversion.
This novel reminds me of 19th century novelists, such as Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. The narrative is understated with detailed probes into the psyche of Harriet. In the “Introduction” by Caleb Crain, he wrote, “Perhaps A Game of Hide and Seek should be understood in the spirit of a Brontë novel, as representing a world in which love is more easily distinguished by the shadows it throws than by any light it may cast” (xi).
I found myself enchanted from the first page. Taylor wrote, “Sometimes in the long summer’s evenings, which are so marked a part of our youth, Harriet and Vesey played hide-and-seek with the younger children, running across the tufted meadows, their shoes yellow with the pollen of butter cups. They could not run fast across those uneven fields; nor did they wish to, since to find the hiding children was to lose their time together, to run faster was to run away from one another. The jog-trot was a game devised from shyness and uncertainty. Neither dared to assume the other wished to pause, and inexperience barred them both from testing this” (3). I am fast becoming an avid admirer of this wonderful writer; however, collecting her 12 novels, 8 short story collections, and a children’s book, will be a daunting task – I only own two novels and a short story collection. That is what retirement will be all about to my mind.
Here is an example of Harriet’s musings. Taylor wrote, “After their walk in the woods, Harriet faced the day’s page uncertainly. There was either far too much space or only one hundredth part enough. Time had expanded and contracted abnormally. That morning and all her childhood seemed the same distance away. ‘I cannot put down what happened this evening,’ she wrote mysteriously. ‘Nor is there any need, for I shall remember all my life.’ And, although she was so mysterious, she was right. Much of those diaries would puzzle her when she turned their pages in middle age, old age; many allusions would be meaningless; week after week would seem to have been wiped away: but that one entry, so proudly cryptic, would always evoke the evening in the woods, the shadows, the layers of leaves shutting out the sky, the bronze mosses at the foot of the trees, the floating sound their voices had, and that explosive, echoing cry of the cuckoo. She would remember writing the words in the little candlelit bedroom” (26-27).
To give Vesey his due, Taylor adds, “He needed Harriet for his own reasons, to give him confidence and peace. In the shelter of her love, he hoped to have a second chance, to turn his personality away from what he most hated in himself, to try to find dignity before it was too late. Playing the fool bored him. With the failure of school behind him, he hoped to shake off the tedious habit” (30).
Some of Taylor’s works are available from the The New York Review of Books. try Elizabeth Taylor’s A Game of Hide and Seek, and find the wonderful world of her imagination, and then help revive interest in this amazing writer. 5 stars.