Elizabeth Taylor Reading Project discussion

At Mrs Lippincote's
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At Mrs Lippincote's > At Mrs Lippincote's FINISHING Thoughts/Discussion questions

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Karen | 211 comments Mod
Thoughts/discussion questions on FINISHING


Tania | 43 comments I finished this one last night. I really loved the writing and think it has become one of my favourites of hers. I also loved Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. It has been some time since I read that though.
On a side note, for people living in the UK, in a fortnight the Radio 4 Book at Bedtime is going to be 'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' starting Aug 13th.


message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan I also recently read At Mrs Lippincote's. The only other Elizabeth Taylor that I've read is Mrs Palfrey It's interesting to see how Taylor's debut novel has so many of the strengths of Mrs Palfrey, her late career triumph.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Did anyone actually like any of these characters? Except perhaps Oliver and Felicity, I found them all pretty much distasteful.


message 5: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Did anyone actually like any of these characters? Except perhaps Oliver and Felicity, I found them all pretty much distasteful."

No, I didn't like any of them except for Oliver and Felicity. That's one reason why I enjoyed it so much..


Elizabeth (Alaska) Dan wrote: "No, I didn't like any of them except for Oliver and Felicity. That's one reason why I enjoyed it so much.. "

Oh yes. I don't have to like the characters to like a book, which in this case is fortunate.

In the starting thread, someone mentions that Julia flirts with the Wing Commander. I sort of found the opposite, that his actions ran right up against - and maybe across - the line of sexual harassment.

But I also noticed that no women came to visit Julia, only men.


Tania | 43 comments I did actually like Julia, I hated her husband who freely admitted he'd put her in a box. He felt she should be one thing, conventional and worshipful of him and all he stood for, and she rebelled against that ideal. He said at some point in the novel that he had wanted to mould her into his ideal (paraphrasing). He was such a prig, no wonder she wanted to break out and be her own person.


message 8: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "In the starting thread, someone mentions that Julia flirts with the Wing Commander. I sort of found the opposite, that his actions ran right up against - and maybe across - the line of sexual harassment."

Interesting, you may well be right about the Wing Commander. I found him less noxious than Julia, Eleanor, and Roddy, but perhaps I should have read and thought more carefully about it.


Tania | 43 comments I didn't feel she was flirting with him, he was pressing his attentions on her. He also idealised her based on her literary choices, she didn't seem keen on the Rochester comparison. interested by it, but in a fairly distant way.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Tania wrote: "He felt she should be one thing, conventional and worshipful of him and all he stood for, and she rebelled against that ideal. "

I must have missed that page.


Tania | 43 comments On the last page, 'But Roddy wanted love only where there was homage as well, and admiration. He did not want merely to be reckoned at his own worth' throughout the book I thought he felt Julia owed him more respect and was frustrated at the lack.


message 12: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 03, 2018 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Tania wrote: "On the last page, 'But Roddy wanted love only where there was homage as well, and admiration. He did not want merely to be reckoned at his own worth' throughout the book I thought he felt Julia owe..."

I thought she owed him more respect too. It was one of the things I liked least about her. If you do not at least respect your husband, why are you there? That is not to say I thought he was likable either. He was absent emotionally it seemed to me. We don't know what went on early in the marriage.

There is a quote that I found amusing, but perhaps shows some of what is wrong here and sort of makes you wonder why he wanted to marry her in the first place.

"I am a little worried about Julia lately," said Eleanor. "She is moody and unlike herself."

Roddy suppressed the thought that Julia had been unlike herself ever since he had first known her.

My understanding is that this is sort of typical of Taylor's writing.


Tania | 43 comments I liked that quote too. I think respect is earned and he hadn't earned it. He had an idealised version of her and I don't think he liked the reality of her. They didn't seem to understand each other by this stage. I wondered why she was still with him, too.
I think this is fairly typical of her writing, I haven't read many of her books, though.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Tania wrote: "I think respect is earned and he hadn't earned it. "

Then maybe she shouldn't have married him in the first place. I am not speaking from some lofty place, by the way. I was once young and very foolish.


Tania | 43 comments No, I don't think she should have, she would probably not have known this until it was too late, however, and it was not so easy to divorce back then. I did sympathise with her character in the book, I don't think I would like her in real life, though.


message 16: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 03, 2018 02:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Along these lines, and something I thought might be worth discussing (page 93 of the Virago paperback):

"I am not going anywhere. I am going for a walk." She looked out of the window, wondering why she submitted to him, standing there like a child waiting for him to pat her head and give her sixpence. He thought she was tired after the party.
There are both our perspectives contained here. Your "waiting for him to pat her head" and my "wondering why she submitted to him". I don't know what I might have done then, but now I'd be more inclined to say "Let's go for a walk."


Tania | 43 comments Yes, I do see your point, but I feel he shouldn't have married her, if he couldn't love and respect her for who she was, rather than who he wanted her to be. A point I felt was highlighted in your quote in msg 12. like you say, we don't know what went on in the early stages of their marriage, but I feel it must be very draining trying to live up to someone elses ideal of who you are rather than being able to be yourself. As I say, my sympathies lie with her.
Interesting to see the different interpretations of the same words.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Happy you enjoyed it Tania. I've heard 'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' is excellent and a real tear jerker too !


Elizabeth (Alaska) Tania wrote: "Yes, I do see your point, but I feel he shouldn't have married her, if he couldn't love and respect her for who she was, rather than who he wanted her to be. "

She couldn't have said "no, I don't want to marry you"? I don't like Julia, but that doesn't mean I'm taking sides and liking Roddy. I don't like any of the adults in this.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Hello Dan , such a great first novel and apparently Elizabeth Taylor had been writing well over fifteen years before 'At Mrs Lippincote's' got published.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Four pages after the walk quote above, she has arrived at the ruins and encountered Mr. Taylor.

It was like a game of tennis, that sort of conversation: the ball went back and forth but no one was really involved, the expected replies were dealt and after the game had been kept up for a while, the other side tired and, feeling it had done well, changed the subject. But the truth had not been spoken. Had he suddenly said: "My life ended just the same, whether I was killed or not. This that I have now means nothing to me and has no value," They would still not have understood.


So. No one truly listens to one another in this novel. Each is so intent on needing someone to understand him/herself, that no one has the capacity for understanding others.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Dan wrote: "No, I didn't like any of them except for Oliver and Felicity. That's one reason why I enjoyed it so much.. "

Oh yes. I don't have to like the characters to like a book, which in this c..."

Hello Elizabeth, I agree , you don't have to like all the characters in every book you read, how boring that would be if you did !
It was myself that suggested Julia flirting with the Wing Commander, but after finishing the story, I see Julia does tend to act in the same way with all male company.
Poor vicar not knowing where to look while Julia irons Eleanor's black lace under garments !!


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Tania wrote: "I did actually like Julia, I hated her husband who freely admitted he'd put her in a box. He felt she should be one thing, conventional and worshipful of him and all he stood for, and she rebelled ..."
Hello Tania, At first , i disliked Julia's character a lot, but on finishing the story, i do feel sorry for her.
Roddy and Julia aren't suited at all and i felt he wanted a wife to cook and clean and entertain his R.A.F friends.
Both seem to have secret seperate lives .
Perhaps they was in love at first but the war and keep moving around all the time must have taken its toll on their relationship.
'He's my husband.Not my keeper,' says Julia in the story.
Considering it was published in 1945, i thought Julia to have very modern views


Elizabeth (Alaska) Karen wrote: "Poor vicar not knowing where to look while Julia irons Eleanor's black lace under garments !!"

Ha! That scene had me asking why she had a bra in the ironing. I mean, who irons a bra?


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Ha ha !! : D some very funny writing here , i liked the bit where Julia is discussing the facts of life with her son Oliver and she decides to draw it on paper !!


Elizabeth (Alaska) Karen wrote: "Ha ha !! : D some very funny writing here , i liked the bit where Julia is discussing the facts of life with her son Oliver and she decides to draw it on paper !!"

Yes, but I couldn't help wondering why a 7-year old would be reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles. There is a statement later in the book where he admits to be 7 "but I'm backward."


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Very advanced reader i'd say !
I thought Mrs Lippincote's Daughter Phyllis quite a character, sneeking the house all the time too.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Karen wrote: "I thought Mrs Lippincote's Daughter Phyllis quite a character, sneeking the house all the time too."

She had some mental problems, but apparently not enough to put her in treatment. Or else the village was more tolerant than otherwise.


message 29: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Karen wrote: "Hello Dan , such a great first novel and apparently Elizabeth Taylor had been writing well over fifteen years before 'At Mrs Lippincote's' got published."

Karen, that’s interesting. Do you know if Taylor had any short fiction published before At Mrs Lippincote’s?


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Dan wrote: "Karen wrote: "Hello Dan , such a great first novel and apparently Elizabeth Taylor had been writing well over fifteen years before 'At Mrs Lippincote's' got published."

Karen, that’s interesting. ..."

Hi Dan , i have just started reading The Other Elizabeth Taylor, so will let you know.
I do know she enjoyed writing from a very early age. In 1924 (aged 12) she wrote a lot of poetry and even sent some of it off to magazines.


message 31: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Thanks, Karen. I look forward to hearing about this.


message 32: by Quirkyreader (new)

Quirkyreader | 8 comments Karen,

You are going to enjoy the bio. And a interesting fact about ET, she was loosely associated with Ruth Ellis, the last woman in England executed for murder.


message 33: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Karen, Quirkyreader,
What are your assessments of Beauman's biography? Readable? Accessible? My local library network doesn't own it, surprisingly, so it would necessitate a Book Depository purchase.


message 34: by Quirkyreader (new)

Quirkyreader | 8 comments Dan,

I got it through inner-library loan. But sometimes copies do show up on the various bookseller websites. Or you could contact Persephone books and order a copy directly.


message 35: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Quirkyreader wrote: "Dan, I got it through inner-library loan. But sometimes copies do show up on the various bookseller websites. Or you could contact Persephone books and order a copy directly."

Thank you. I believe that it's out of print. Did you enjoy reading it?


message 36: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 05, 2018 02:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Here is Eleanor talking to Sarge (page 123 Virago paperback edition):

"No. Not satisfied at all. Not with other people's worlds, nor even with my own. I'm lonely, like all my kind. The thing I notice about you all is that you're never lonely. You get tired, you argue, quarrel even, but you aren't lonely and, underneath, you all love one another and depend on one another and give one another courage. That's what life should be like, it seems to me. the pattern of your lives is interlaced, woven together." And she locked her fingers to show him what she meant. "The other way of living, the way I live, the way Julia lives, seems so completely senseless; shut away in air-tight compartments. The hours pass, but that is all one can say. The time goes by and things change, but nothing is really added to one."
This, to me, encapsulates the novel. When I complain about Julia, above, it is this "shut away in air-tight compartments" - and all of them. We don't know how they got to this, but I don't see them trying to make it different, and I don't like them for not trying.

I have complained (quietly) in other places when people seem to want the author to have written a different novel. That is not my complaint at all. I gave this just 4-stars, but it has enough complexities to make discussion worthwhile. I liked the novel, just not the characters, if that makes sense.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Hello Dan and Quirkyreader : )
Enjoying Nicola Beauman's biography of Elizabeth Taylor very much.
(got my copy second-hand off e-bay for around £7)
It seems that 'At Mrs Lippincote's' is the most auto-biographical of all her novels.
Elizabeth's father was named Oliver, her brother (but known as Campbell), and also later when she was to become a governess for a while, the boy she looked after was also called Oliver.
In answer to your question Dan, upon reading more, i have found out that Elizabeth's first published work was in a school magazine in 1929, the year she left school.(until 1944 this would be the only piece she would ever have printed).
Sadly in real life Elizabeth miscarried a baby in the early summer of 1936.( Julia in 'At Mrs Lippincote's, had a stillborn daughter)
Just before her wedding Elizabeth joined the Communist Party(Eleanor in 'At Mrs Lippincote's also).
Some say Elizabeth only married John Taylor because she was pregnant and she didn't want to housekeep for her father (whom she didn't get along with) and her brother after her mother Elsie died in 1936.
All her friends thought she would of married someone more bohemian and not the son of the local mayor of High Wycombe.
Thus her affair with Ray Russell ( whom she was deeply in love with) lasting intermittently for over ten years.


message 38: by Quirkyreader (new)

Quirkyreader | 8 comments Dan,

I read it before reading her books. So it is full of spoilers. I rather enjoyed reading it. And someday I will get around to acquiring my own copy.


message 39: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Thanks to both of you, Karen and Quirkyreader, you've convinced me. Then again, I rarely need much convincing when it comes to book purchases.


message 40: by Camille (new)

Camille De Fleurville | 1 comments Dan wrote: "Karen, Quirkyreader,
What are your assessments of Beauman's biography? Readable? Accessible? My local library network doesn't own it, surprisingly, so it would necessitate a Book Depository purchase."


Buy it; it is worthwhile if you like Taylor and/or biography. Beauman's books are good. I read it for a discussion in another online group outside this site and found it useful.


message 41: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Camille, And thanks to you too.


message 42: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 06, 2018 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemary I just finished and definitely enjoyed it, although I also found the characters mostly unlikeable. I thought the big disconnect between Julia and Roddy was that Roddy was much more concerned with appearances, and Julia would have been happier being outspoken about everything. But since that kind of honesty wasn't valued by Roddy and Eleanor, she just ended up being flippant.

It throws a different light on the book when we find out at the end about the letter she found in the very first pages. That surely influences her behaviour, even if she tries to push away the knowledge. And did she know about what was going on before, the affair that the Wing Commander was trying to save Roddy from by moving him? That kind of thing must have a huge effect on a marriage, even if (especially if?) it's never mentioned.

I think Julia will lose all interest in the Wing Commander if she finds out he was a dentist! She has no patience with the mediocre, it seems to me. Although she doesn't seem to have very much interest in him anyway--but she seems pleased to see him, she never discourages him which she could do, and I don't think she feels harassed by him.


Rosemary BTW did anyone else think it was bizarre that Mrs. Lippincote had left all her photographs out on display? And all the cupboards full of her family's things? Very little had been packed up or taken away.


Katrina (katrinapiningforthewest) | 2 comments Most of the characters were unlikeable, but by the time I got close to the end then Julia's behaviour towards her husband seemed really benign given the circumstances. By then we've learned that Julia and Roddy's daughter , their second child died shortly after her birth. Obviously this is something that Julia has never got over and she knew that her husband was a philanderer, it wasn't a 'one off' as he is at it again, as soon as he moved to the new posting. At his previous posting it was known what Roddy was up to (having an affair) and in an effort to save the marriage he was transferred. But it wasn't long before he was involved with another woman. The Wing Commander who was only worried about Julia in a fatherly way as far as I can see, is disgusted with Roddy's philandering habit and never wants to have anything more to do with him. Under the circumstances Julia's behaviour is very understandable, she's still grieving for her dead daughter, but can't even admit it to herself. By the end I really liked this book.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Thanks for your thoughts Elizabeth.
Julia seemed uncomfortable having Mrs Whapshott helping out, looking on her as a spy reporting back to Mrs Lippincote.
Julia , having a husband in the R.A.F ,seems more privileged than some during that time, yet this makes her feel uneasy sometimes


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Thanks for your thoughts Rosemary
I agree, even though Mrs Lippincote may of thought that Julia and Roddy was only living in her house for a short while,she did leave a lot of her belongings out.
So funny when Mrs Lippincote knocked the door and Julia rushes to get her photographs back out the draw !


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Same here Dan ! : )


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Thanks for your thoughts Katrina
I agree, the loss of Julia's baby must of had a big impact on their marriage.
What are your thoughts on Eleanor's behaviour towards Roddy?
At the end she finds out about Roddy having the affair and still seems to side with him


Squeak2017 Eleanor’s resentment of Julia for becoming Roddy’s wife colours all her behaviour. Her devotion to Roddy intensifies her dislike. But I think the reason she colludes with Roddy is because she herself feels like a liar and a cheat for associating with the communists and misleading her family about it. She despises Julia for accepting the lie, unaware that Julia has risen above Roddy’s contemptible behaviour and no longer cares what he does. She stays with him only for Oliver’s sake, it seems to me, not for her own.


message 50: by Rosemary (last edited Aug 07, 2018 03:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rosemary Karen wrote: "What are your thoughts on Eleanor's behaviour towards Roddy? At the end she finds out about Roddy having the affair and still seems to side with him"

I think she is deeply disillusioned, in fact. She agrees to give him an alibi, but she is angry enough to make those little passive-aggressive comments that make Julia pick up on what has happened, and she doesn't want to live with them anymore, but says she will stay for another year when they first find out they must move back to London.


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