Olly Olly Oxen Free: Elizabeth Taylor May Read-a-long

The Elizabeth Taylor Centenary has celebrated four novels this year, so far.

May marks our reading of A Game of Hide and Seek.

Who’s in?

Published in 1951 in England, Elizabeth Bowen’s review of the novel reads like this:

“Two masterpiece love stories in our language, Persuasion and Wuthering Heights, have been written by women, but long ago: they await successors in our day. Still more, they await a successor; a single book which shall merge the elements in those two.”

Well, now, that gets a readers hopes up, doesn’t it. But Bowen takes a step back.

“To suggest that A Game of Hide and Seek fills this gap might both embarrass the author and by making an exaggerated claim for it, injure the novel.”

However, Elizabeth Bowen had read this book in manuscript and had written to the author to say that it was the book of hers that she liked best.

Though her fifth to be published, A Game of Hide and Seek may have been Elizabeth Taylor’s twentieth or twenty-fifth to be written; she had known from a very young age that she wanted to be a writer.

And Elizabeth Bowen was not the only writer to believe that this novel was its author’s finest.

Bowen’s review continues:

“Soberly speaking, however, it is not too much to say that A Game of Hide and Seek has something of the lucid delicacies of Persuasion, together with, at moments, more than a touch of the fiery-icy-strangeness of Wuthering Heights. The characters are of less high voltage than Emily Brontë’s, on the other hand, they dare and envisage much that Jane Austen could not.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with these statements, Elizabeth Taylor’s work does rest in a tradition of English writing which casts a light on everyday life for ordinary people, on marriage and sex roles, on romance and innocence, on loneliness and betrayal. If you haven’t yet tried her work, this would make an excellent place to start.

The discussion will begin officially on Monday, May 7th. Tomorrow and Friday there will be posts on other works of hers (in between my thoughts on Alice Munro’s short story “Royal Beatings”). You can also check other readers’ thoughts on her works on Laura’s Elizabeth Taylor Centenary link pages — and add your own as well.)

Let’s see how many want to join in, but I have tentatively reserved Mondays in May for Elizabeth Taylor chatter. There is much to be said about this novel in Nicola Beauman’s The Other Elizabeth Taylor. We can chat about that, too, and Beauman believes that this novel is Taylor’s homage (conscious or unconscious) to Chekov’s “The Lady and the Dog” (1899) and was also influenced by the film “Brief Encounter”.

With that in mind, is anyone else interested in reading this classic story to see what inspired Nicola Beauman’s statement? Anyone eager to watch (or re-watch) “Brief Encounter”? A watch-a-long later in the month, perhaps?

Come on, who wants to play A Game of Hide and Seek?





  1. […] by: Buried in Print’s readalong (in […]

  2. Harriet May 18, 2012 at 3:56 am - Reply

    I’ve just posted a review of this novel on my blog: http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog/2010/02/a-game-of-hide-and-seek.html. I don’t think it’s ET’s best, but all her work is brilliant, so I hope lots of people will be joining in.

  3. Christy May 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    I just came off a readalong, but this book intrigues me and according to goodreads, it’s not very long, so I might be up for it, but I’ll be joining late. I just requested it through interlibrary loan and it may take a little while for me to get my hands on it.

    I watched Brief Encounter three or four years ago and remember thinking it was very good. David Lean (who directed Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge over the River Kwai) was the director and to be honest, I liked the smaller-scope Brief Encounter and Summertime better than his more famous epic films.

    • Buried In Print May 4, 2012 at 7:25 am - Reply

      It’s much shorter than Woman in White, Christy, so you’ll feel like you’re breezing through it; I’ve only seen “Brief Encounter” once, but I really enjoyed it as well, and would love to re-view. Don’t worry if you aren’t reading until later in the month, and it would be great if you can join in; I’m hoping to structure the discussion so that people can float in and out as it suits their reading schedules, by having new posts each Monday.

  4. belva May 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    I have begun the book but had to set it aside as my head just couldn’t get into it. Too much real life at the time. So I am reading a Virago book of short stories currently. But it is early in the month so I should have plenty of time to play. Thank you for setting this up and letting us know about it.

    • Buried In Print May 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      I completely understand how that goes; it happens to me quite often. I’m hoping that, if the discussion is staggered through the month, that it will suit as many reading schedules/moods as possible. What short story collection are you reading?

  5. Buried In Print May 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Heavenali – I’m glad you’re planning to read along. And I understand the delicate machinations involved with negotiating a reading stack. You can’t risk offending the other books who deserve their chances as well.
    Laura – Hopefully that will give some people a chance to jump in on later weekends as well; I know it’s hard to schedule everything, especially when real life so often interferes with reading.
    Aarti – Her work is getting easier to find than it was a few years ago, and the NYRB has recently reissued some titles (including this one) as well, but it’s not exactly mainstream yet. I hope you do find some more eventually!

  6. Aarti May 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Oh, fun! I would definitely join if I had more access to Elizabeth Taylor. I just read a novel by her, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, and enjoyed it even though it was very melancholy.

  7. Laura May 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I love the idea of Monday book chat! And I’m delighted to finally know how to write “Olly Olly Oxen Free” (I never knew what those sounds I made as a kid really meant)

  8. heavenali May 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    I am looking forward to reading this – although I have two books possibly to read before I get to it. At the Elizabeth Taylor day in Reading the week before last – a couple of people said they thought it was possibly her best novel.

    [Edited to add a link to your post about Elizabeth Taylor Day in Reading. BIP]

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