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[516] Blaming – Elizabeth Taylor

” She re-read the letter for the third time, wondering how she could decently prevent Martha from coming, who could recreate the nightmare, letting slip placenames, which must never be mentioned to her again; but she knew that she could not decently prevent her, after all that she had done. ” (Ch.6, p.52)

Paring the purely descriptive element to the bone, Blaming barely holds up a story. What takes place here looks fairly simple: Amy, whose husband Nick dies suddenly while they are on vacation in Istanbul, is helped through the practical difficulties surrounding her loss by Martha, an American novelist whom at first Amy is reluctant to contact again after the two women have gone separate ways. Once back home, in the caring hands of Ernie the butler, Gareth the doctor and her son James, Amy allows grief to run its course, knowing that bereaved people are a great burden to others.

Once reconciled to the fact that, despite delays and excuses, Martha must eventually be invited, Amy had done her best, had bought flowers, which she did not do nowadays, and arranged them carefully, had tried to see her faded, but pretty house through the eyes of a foreign stranger . . . (Ch.7, p.63)

Earlier on the trip, in which Nick, recovering from a surgery, had been trying on Amy’s patience. The intrusive Martha befriended the couple and hoped for a growing acquaintance with them. Tragic circumstance has inevitably brought her closer to Amy, who is ungratefully reluctant to maintain the friendship. Eventually Martha secures an invitation to visit. Her presence in Amy’s life is irritatingly intrusive, but a curious bond begins to form between the two women. “In a way, Martha became part of the passing time,” yet Amy continues to resent her prodigality and impulsiveness. Amy herself develops an ever-clear liaison with the family doctor Gareth Lloyd, who has been a widower, under the gaze of her son and daughter-in-law James and Maggie, altogether less endearing than their two children.

The prevailing mood of Blaming is one of subdued bleakness. Though the characters themselves—fretful and grievous Amy, restless and impulsive Martha, aggravating James and inquisitive Dora seem to forge relationships with one another through a medium of disappointed expectations, Taylor invokes through them a sense of confusion and frustration because often time human imperfections are what make of life. Taylor’s characters are all so truthful because, above all, she was a great virtuoso of dialogue. She really knew how people talk. Taylor can be unforgiving towards her characters’ behavior; but she knows exactly why they behave in such a way.

190 pp. Virago Modern Classics. Paper. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

One Response

  1. […] [516] Blaming – Elizabeth Taylor […]

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