Elizabeth Taylor Reading Project discussion

Palladian
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Palladian > Palladian FINISHING Thoughts/Discussion Questions

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Karen | 211 comments Mod
Thoughts/discussion questions on FINISHING PALLADIAN
Readalong Sept 2018
Elizabeth Taylors second novel


message 2: by Canadian Reader (last edited Sep 03, 2018 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Canadian Reader To me, this felt more like a first novel than At Mrs. Lippincote’s. Cassandra is a pretty limp protagonist (She’s certainly no fiery Jane Eyre), and the novel is weaker than it might have been as a result. Margaret’s reasons for being at the house were not clear to me. What a strange creature. She certainly didn’t come across as a physician. Why weren’t we given more of a backstory about her and her brother, Tom? It’s also hard to know when this story is set. Maybe I wasn’t attentive enough.

The final thing I wonder about is Marion’s “effeminacy”. I’m noticing this sort of “unmanly man” popping up a lot in Taylor’s work. What’s with that? Is Taylor trying to do a weird send-up of Mr. Rochester here? And why end with a marriage? What kind of statement does she make with this union? So that the reader can feel dissatisfaction, instead of the usual . . . For a variety of reasons, this didn’t work for me. It’s interesting, but feels incomplete, not fully baked.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I liked this one better than Mrs. Lippincote. While I didn't especially like any of the characters any better, I also didn't chafe that I wanted them to do/be different than they are. They just are.


Pamela (bibliohound) I liked this one a lot, which surprised me as I found it less witty than At Mrs Lippincote's. I enjoyed the literary allusions, even when they were (deliberately) over the top, and the melancholy tone, the damaged characters (especially Tom) and all the angst.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Finished Palladian this afternoon and enjoyed it.
In answer to your discussion questions Canadian ,i'm thinking the title Palladian is Elizabeth Taylor's way of saying , here is a big country house with a beautiful facade, but all is not what it seems inside. The house is decaying and falling down and the people who live in it are all unhappy in some way.
For me , i enjoyed this better than her first novel , even though it contained less humour.
I agree with you regarding the character Margaret, why if she had her own flat , did she need to be there?
I thought that the character Tom reminded me of 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' with him always getting drunk .
No one mentions earning their living in the house too , which i thought strange.
I think Elizabeth is finding her style more with this book , again enjoying mixing dark issues with humour.
I thought the book flowed better than her first and the characters better developed


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I liked this one a lot, which surprised me as I found it less witty than At Mrs Lippincote's. I enjoyed the literary allusions, even when they were (deliberately) over the top, and the melancholy t..."
Hello Pamela,
So many literary allusions , Austen ( whose sister was Cassandra), Daphne du Maurier ( Violet the dead wife , like in Rebecca) and the Brontes ( Marrying the governess - the setting of the country house , like in Jane Eyre).
Apparently Elizabeth Taylor's American publishers really wanted her to change the title to 'Cassandra's House' rather than 'Palladian'


Pamela (bibliohound) Karen wrote: "So many literary allusions.."

Yes, and Vanbrugh too. I knew he was a playwright but when Marion found Cassandra reading his work in the bookshop I looked up The Provoked Wife (then I got that sly joke too!)


message 8: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Sep 05, 2018 11:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) I again failed to catch a lot of the humor in this. I like that Karen and Pamela have posted the literary allusions. Austen and Bronte are not favorites of mine. I did find one quip which I immediately noted. When she was describing Mrs. Veal, she said: She had a way of settling her blue fox across her breast and smiling down with pleasure and approval — it might equally have been pleasure at the fur or the bosom, since both were magnificent.


message 9: by Pamela (last edited Sep 05, 2018 11:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) I liked that quip too, Elizabeth, and it created an instant picture of Mrs Veal in my mind.


Tania | 43 comments Also Tom says Violet turns him into a "glowering Heathcliff", and the Dashwoods were the heroines in 'Sense and Sensibility'.


message 11: by Canadian Reader (last edited Sep 05, 2018 03:41PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Canadian Reader Karen wrote: "Finished Palladian this afternoon and enjoyed it.
In answer to your discussion questions Canadian ,i'm thinking the title Palladian is Elizabeth Taylor's way of saying , here is a big country house..."


Yes, the Palladian front and the decay behind it make sense, but I thought there was another level to Taylor’s use of the word—that it connected with the book the school mistress gave to Cassandra as a going-away present. I understood the mistress to be a classicist, who hoped that the book she authored and some real-world experience would shake the romantic nonsense (derived from novels) out of Cassandra’s head. Palladian also refers to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athena/Athene, and can mean “characterized by wisdom or study.”

That’s interesting you mention The Tenant of Wildfell Hall—a book I’ve never read. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see another Bronte-inspired character, though.

For all the gothic effects, this is a very un-romantic book. One wishes Cassandra had enough spark to flee Marion and the whole decadent Vanbrugh lot. I think the book would have been so much better if we could have had a protagonist with some vitality.


Canadian Reader Pamela wrote: "I liked that quip too, Elizabeth, and it created an instant picture of Mrs Veal in my mind."
The name Veal itself is quite something. She’s basically just a piece of meat for Tom—another strange character, with all his gruesome artistic exercises.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Canadian wrote: "One wishes Cassandra had enough spark to flee Marion and the whole decadent Vanbrugh lot. "

There was a common belief that girls wanted to marry someone like their father. In any case, I think this is quite true of Cassandra. It's clear that the primary moments of happiness in her short life were spent with her father and his books. What better person than Marion could she have found as a replacement?


Canadian Reader Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Canadian wrote: "One wishes Cassandra had enough spark to flee Marion and the whole decadent Vanbrugh lot. "

There was a common belief that girls wanted to marry someone like their father. In any ..."

That’s a really interesting point, but this model of marriage is also a bit creepy and incestuous, too.


message 15: by Mela (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mela (melabooks) | 29 comments A definitely memorable book. Although comparing to other Taylor's novels (that I have read by now) it had some weak points in the narration.

The most genius part was that reading it, I have felt their anxiety.

And I am sorry but I think Cassandra and Marion (their love, marriage) was rather doomed. I am not able to believe in their HEA in a long turn. Perhaps that was the point of their story.

Here my review.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
I would of liked to have seen some more feelings and maybe anger from Marion when Tom confessed to sleeping with his wife !!
He seemed very forgiving about the whole thing.
I think there was a hint at the end of maybe Tom causing further problems ... flirting with the bride Cassandra at their wedding.


message 17: by Mela (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mela (melabooks) | 29 comments Karen wrote: "I would of liked to have seen some more feelings and maybe anger from Marion when Tom confessed to sleeping with his wife !!
He seemed very forgiving about the whole thing.
I think there was a hint..."


Yes, there was something in the air. Their (C&M) relationship wasn't based on a strong and health grounds (feelings), I think, so... Nonetheless, it was genius what E. Taylor told through the story.


message 18: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Sep 06, 2018 07:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Canadian wrote: "That’s a really interesting point, but this model of marriage is also a bit creepy and incestuous, too."

It is quite common, and happens even now. Frequently. Many daughters want to marry someone like their father, who they love and revere. It is just like sons wanting to marry someone like their mother. In many ways, this is at the heart of the in law problems.


carissa Not a book that will stay in my mind. A pleasant read, but not interesting to me in any way. AML was much funnier and had more interesting characters and complex story lines.
I am really enjoying ET's using character's internal dialogue as a preface followed by what they say out loud. DELICIOUS!
See/Read you next month!


Karen Mace | 11 comments I found this to be fairly enjoyable but did take a while to get into it as the characters at the start seemed a little flat and uninspiring! The more I read, the more I got into it and enjoyed the different characteristics of everyone. It often felt a little abrupt and sharp in dealing with some situations, while other trivial moments seemed to drag on too long!


message 21: by Anne (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anne Fenn | 3 comments I loved re-reading this novel, thanks for inspiring me. I thought the main characters were great creations showing that repression of emotion and stoicism Brits were famous for, in the post war 1940s anyway. Marion, Cassandra, Tom, all felt a lot and said a little. Nanny and Tinty were the babbling ones, a great contrast. Regarding the title, those huge cold stone pillars holding up the house is what came to my mind, surely Marion is one of those . One of the author's most effectively succinct vignettes is the scene in bar, when Tom forces an agreement from Mrs Veal that she won't disclose the origins of Cassie's birth. A strange absence of emotion, reaction, anything really, is the silence after the death of a child. Loved the allusions readers found!


Rosemary I enjoyed the humour in this one, but everybody seemed so powerless. (I was going to write impotent - maybe that too.) Marion puts up with his aunt and two cousins living in his house at his expense, plus his dead wife's Nanny, because ... why? Because he couldn't have handled living alone with Sophy, perhaps. Too much responsibility.

I think the reason he didn't get angry with Tom was probably the same - Tom's confession relieved him of responsiblity for Sophy ... and of responsibility for Violet's death, too. So he was probably glad, in a way.

I agree that Cassandra and Marion will make a terrible couple. I don't think Tom will cause any trouble there, though. He's not staying, and I don't think Cassandra has much respect for him.

I did enjoy reading it but gosh, I wouldn't want to be any of those characters!


Canadian Reader Rosemary wrote: "I enjoyed the humour in this one, but everybody seemed so powerless. (I was going to write impotent - maybe that too.) Marion puts up with his aunt and two cousins living in his house at his expens..."

I think your point about the passivity of the characters is a good one. I wonder if it’s possible for a novel to be a great success when none of the characters really acts. Marion’s looking for Cassandra in the end didn’t really convince. None of these characters really lived on the page for me.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Canadian wrote: "None of these characters really lived on the page for me. "

We all have different reactions. I found the characters living and believable.


message 25: by Nicola (new) - added it

Nicola Ray | 5 comments I found this a fascinating read. I have only read Mrs Palfry previously and this was very different. I enjoyed the nods to other literary characters but found the story tragic rather than funny. The characters all had dramatic flaws and were rather unlikeable. However, I was fascinated to find out how the story would unfold. I felt the characters needed to be developed further as we didn't get a sense of their history apart from little hints. I did enjoy the book though.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Nicola wrote: "I felt the characters needed to be developed further as we didn't get a sense of their history apart from little hints. "

I think, now that I've read 3 of her novels, that this is one of her strengths, rather than weaknesses. The reader is left to use her/his own imagination.


message 27: by Nicola (new) - added it

Nicola Ray | 5 comments I would have preferred to know more about the characters because they all felt rather unrealistic. Obviously, our expectations in 2018 are different from the time that this was written but I couldn't understand why anyone would want to marry Marion as he was so insipid. Apart from Tom, the other characters lacked depth and were almost stereotypes.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Nicola wrote: "I couldn't understand why anyone would want to marry Marion as he was so insipid."

He was just what Cassandra wanted. Did you like her? She didn't have any starch either.


message 29: by Nicola (new) - added it

Nicola Ray | 5 comments I liked her to begin with but felt she was rather insipid too. A sort of timid version of Jane Eyre.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Nicola wrote: "I liked her to begin with but felt she was rather insipid too. A sort of timid version of Jane Eyre."
Hello Nicola, thanks for joining in and sharing your thoughts


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