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The Soul of Kindness

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  20 reviews
' "Here I am!" Flora called to Richard as she went downstairs. For a second, Meg felt disloyalty. It occurred to her of a sudden that Flora was always saying that, and that it was in the tone of one giving a lovely present. She was bestowing herself.' The soul of kindness is what Flora believes herself to be. Tall, blonde and beautiful, she appears to have everything under ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published 1990 by Virago Modern Classics (first published 1964)
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I read this book a couple of weeks ago in fact – and have simply saved this review to post now. Hopefully I have avoided any spoilers – as I know a lot of people will still be reading.
The Soul of Kindness of the title is Flora Quatermaine, a beautiful young woman, who as the novel opens is getting married. Flora is simply adored by everyone, which she feels is her due. As time moves forward four years, Flora has everything she wants; her husband Richard, a baby and a lovely home in St. Johns Woo
Roger Pettit
From time to time I mentally compile a list of those writers whose work I believe is unfairly neglected or under-appreciated. Top of my list is someone whom I consider to be a marvellous novelist: Barbara Pym. Others on the list include EF Benson, Ellery Queen, Patrick Hamilton and Michael Gilbert. I feel I must now add another name to the list: Elizabeth Taylor. Perhaps her writing is better known than I realise. But before recently picking up a copy of her novel The Soul of Kindness in a chari ...more
This was originally published in 1964; the copy I read was the Virago Modern Classic with a 1983 introduction by Philip Hensher. This was my first sample of Taylor’s writing and I was slightly disappointed: the writing is beautiful but the story didn’t live up to the cover hype.

Yes, Flora is a spoiled brat masquerading as everyone’s golden girl,
“It’s so miserable of everybody. I thought it would please them to be asked. It would please me. And if I were in their place, I’d do anything rather tha
After just reading Taylor's early work (At Mrs. Lippincote's and Mrs. Palfry at the Claremont) I was disappointed in The Soul of Kindness. The earlier books had an edge to them, some real anger at the limitations of women's lives, which broke through the veneer of politeness (or kindness). Illusions about marriage and relationships could be dispelled--even though the result would be harsh and painful. In The Soul of Kindness, however, characters soldier on, resigning themselves to "lives of quie ...more
Masterly study of a well-meaning monster. Deliciously venomous. Echoes of 'Emma' - I think the heroine, Flora is a study in how Emma might have turned out, if she hadn't grown up and learnt about other people.
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I'm wavering between four and five stars with this novel. Flora is a beautiful, needy woman who expects adoration at all times from her close-knit group. Liz is separate from this group and has no need to soften her opinions about Flora's unconsciously bad behaviour. I loved the subtle humour throughout the novel. The characters in the novel were written with great depth and compassion. I loved the unspoken chafing between Mrs Secretan and her eccentric housekeeper Miss Folley. A sensitive and s ...more
I only have one more Elizabeth Taylor to read, sadly. Unfortunately, Flora is not unique; I've met a few. I Think of FLora's pathology as Pretty Girl Syndrome but Taylor describes it more fully and with great clarity. Love her writing and will miss her when I've read her last.
Helen Jackson
I sped through this little book, fascinated by the characters and carried along by the flowing prose. I may have read it too quickly -- it would certainly be worth re-reading.

I enjoyed Taylor's deft touch: she says a lot about her characters in their most throw-away lines of dialogue. I also liked the way she explored the various lives open to both women and men in this period (the early 1960s), the choices open to them and, by implication, the options not available... all while keeping the nar
Paula Maguire
I picked this book up when down at Tilton House. It was on my bed side table and since it had the word 'kindness' in the title - I felt it was for me. I really enjoyed it. Set in the early 60s, not swinging yet. I enjoyed the etiquette of class and the public / private faces the characters displayed. However I had some sympathy with the character who believes herself to be 'the soul of kindness', but she is in fact smug, selfish condescending. I enjoyed the book but felt that she was just a bit ...more
Linda K
Good character study of a variety of people as their lives connect and effect each other. Flora is a self-absorbed spoiled young woman who always sees only her way of things. Her husband and mother feed into this thinking. Others lives are shown in either a state of their own desires or else of almost complete ennui. Funny, poignant and thought-provoking, Elizabeth Taylor is one of the old British authors of great talent.
Cath Murphy
No one nails the frailties of human beings the way Elizabeth Taylor did. In this story of beautiful, bland Flora who witlessly wreaks havoc on her family and friends because she's slightly too thick and conceited to grasp how much damage she's causing, Taylor makes the reader simultaneously wince and laugh. It's like watching an elegantly wrought and highly entertaining car crash. Brilliant.
I wonder if this is the title I read at Agnes's last year. She said it is one of her favorite authors and I was surprised I had never heard of her before. And I loved the book. Now I am going to read another couple by her, checked out from the univ. library.
Taylor is playing with the myth of Demeter and Persephone, emphasizing the negative consequences of the beautiful daughter's willful misunderstanding of the world -- and the world here is privileged London in the 1950's.
Tim Rideout
Another brilliant novel from Elizabeth Taylor, a post modern 'Emma', without redemption. Her characters' flaws lift them off the page.
presumed Dysmenorreha, p. 45 of my edition. very funny. brutal
Re-re-re-reading. As brilliant and nuanced as ever.
Mar 19, 2011 Susan marked it as to-read
Essex Library book sale March 2011
Virago. Need to re-read.
Loved it.
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Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles) was a popular English novelist and short story writer. Elizabeth Coles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912. She was educated at The Abbey School, Reading, and worked as a governess, as a tutor and as a librarian.

In 1936, she married John Micael, a businessman. She lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all her married life.

Her first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote's,
More about Elizabeth Taylor...
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont Angel In a Summer Season At Mrs Lippincote's A Game of Hide and Seek (Virago Modern Classics)

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