As with Week One, this introductory bit will be spoiler-free and let’s continue to mark any spoilers in the comments below as other readers join us in mid-month. But next Monday, we’ll edge up to spoiler-territory and settle in there firmly on the final Monday.
Last week we chatted (on various venues, see below) about the main characters, primarily Harriet. Several of you mentioned connections with other heroines, and the sense of parallels between Harriet’s experiences and the author’s experiences, which seemed to suggest a stronger connection between author and character than sometimes exists.
Harriet really is at the heart of the novel. And that’s not surprising for those who are familiar with the author’s work. Elizabeth Taylor once wrote, to a friend, that she was disappointed by letters that were filled with talk of what their senders had been doing: “Just as my very dearest books are those in which people do hardly anything at all.”
One could say that nothing at all happens in A Game of Hide and Seek. Regardless of where one weighs in on that point, however, most would agree that the emphasis of the work is on the characters rather than the plot.
But is that all rooted in Harriet? There has been some discussion about Charles and Vesey, though we could perhaps say more about these men, as they are at the heart of Harriet’s story, as much as Harriet is at the heart of Elizabeth Taylor’s story. But even beyond this trio, what of the many other characters who contribute to the novel’s “real feel”? What of them?
Apparently an editor requested that the author edit the majority of the workplace scenes, which many of us particularly enjoyed in this work.
What if an editor had suggested eliminating some of the minor characters: Deirdre? Joseph? Kitty? Miss Lazenby? Caroline? Hugo? Lilian? Betsy? What would A Game of Hide and Seek be like without one of them?
Must they be included, or could the story have worked just as well without? Could you come to their defense as essential elements in this story, or would you be just as content to see them stricken with an editor’s ink? Could you make a case to rescue even one?
Or, what of the other characters that played such a role in earlier novels, their settings? Mrs. Lippincote’s house, the crumbling estate in Palladian, the harbour, the countryside? Is there a distinct sense of place in A Game of Hide and Seek that seems to play the role of a character?
Next week? Some readers may be joining in the later half of the month, and others may be thinking of re-reading or letting the story linger in their minds?
Stay tuned for some chatter about the two works that Nicola Beauman suggests are influences or works of importance for A Game of Hide and Seek: the short Chekov story “The Lady with The Dog” (available here and lots of other places) and the David Lean film, “Brief Encounter” (which is sooooo lovely and which influenced more than one writer in the VMC series).
And some chatter about the other consideration that Nicola Beauman gives to A Game of Hide and Seek in The Other Elizabeth Taylor.
Do hope some of you will enjoy playing along with these tangents to the work we’re discussing. I’m curious about the connections between the works and A Game of Hide and Seek.