I’m picking my new favourite discovery. I read Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel only last month, and I know I’ve now been introduced to a novelist I will return to again and again. But this novel: phwoar! Angel is a monster, an amazing, wonderful monster. A girl from a poor background, fuelled by fantasy, becomes a bestselling novelist, a household name, and very wealthy. She falls in love, she grows old, her books become unfashionable, she carries on. She dies an elderly lady, in her bed, circumstances not so triumphant, dreaming with her customary defiance.
What a character! Like a rocket-fuelled Don Quixote, her stunning lack of self-awareness, her heroic shamelessness is both tragic and yet makes you want to break out in applause. She is horrific to the people who love her most, and herself withstands such cruelty, mockery and judgement.
There is a lot of humour in writing such a BIG character, and yet Elizabeth Taylor is too good, too subtle a writer (unlike Angel!) that Angel becomes so much more than an amusing grotesque. There’s such melancholy and sympathy here, and pin-sharp social observation; Taylor can properly devastate and delight in every single sentence.