Elizabeth Taylor Reading Project discussion

The Soul of Kindness
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The Soul of Kindness > The Soul of Kindness FINISHING Thoughts/Discussion questions

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Karen | 211 comments Mod
Here we can discuss our thoughts/discussion questions on finishing 'The Soul of Kindness' by Elizabeth Taylor


Mela (melabooks) | 29 comments As I have just written in my review: Who was worse (as a human being) Flora or Angel?


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Mela wrote: "As I have just written in my review: Who was worse (as a human being) Flora or Angel?"
Hi Mela, just finished reading 'The Soul of Kindness' and not quite sure what to think of the character Flora. Philip Hensher writes in the introduction that Flora's cruelty is unintended but i'm not sure about that.Flora seems to be a spoilt brat who always wants everything her own way. She wants everyone to think her motives are of kindness and wanting the best for her family and friends.The part where Richard's dad Percy is visting Flora while Ba is in France is interesting. Percy wants to know why Richard has removed the photograph of him from the office. Flora knows Percy is upset about this but when he leaves she goes upstairs to feed Alice with a smile of amusement on her lips. When the suggestions she makes to friends and family don't work out, she never says sorry or feels bad about it. Is Flora aware fully of how her behaviour affects others?
This is a great question, who is worse Flora or Angel ?
For me if Flora is truly not aware of her behaviour then she has to be the worst kind of character.


Mela (melabooks) | 29 comments Karen wrote: "Is Flora aware fully of how her behaviour affects others?"

It is a good question. I didn't consider it. I assumed (probably because of suggestions from an introduction) that she wasn't aware. But now I wonder...

Karen wrote: "For me if Flora is truly not aware of her behaviour then she has to be the worst kind of character. "

Yes, I think so too. By the way, there is some irony that being consciously evil is "better" than doing wrong things unconsciously...


carissa I kept thinking how much like Austen's Emma Flora is. A spoiled little so-and-so with nothing better to do than put things right from her pov. Not deep thinkers these do-gooders.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
carissa wrote: "I kept thinking how much like Austen's Emma Flora is. A spoiled little so-and-so with nothing better to do than put things right from her pov. Not deep thinkers these do-gooders."
Hi Carissa, I must read Emma now !


Tania | 43 comments I liked this one, though it wasn't one of my favourites. Several of the reviewers mention that Flora is what Emma would have turned ouy like without the guidance of Mr Knightly and Mrs Weston. I can see this though it has been some time since I read Emma.
I felt she was misguided and not aware of the consequences of her actions, after all nobody would tell her things hadn't turned out as well as she had hoped. Her mother didn't talk to her about her housekeeper, Ba and Percy never mentioned that they weren't as happy married as they had been living their separate lives. I don't think she had any idea of the harm she did until Kit tried to kill himself.


Historygirl | 1 comments Flora is unbelievably self-centered , not able to understand other people, or perhaps even herself. Unfortunately, she also believes she can fix people’s lives:

“Although as good as gold, she had inconvenient plans for other people’s pleasure, and ideas differing from her own she was not able to imagine.” (Taylor, The Soul of Kindness)

Her mother and best friend Meg have always taken care of her, as “Nannies” indicating how childish she is. She likes to feel that she is improving her friends’ lives, but she is causing catastrophes, some comic, some tragic. The most horrific moment in the novel is when Meg is forced by peer pressure to forgive Flora and become her enabling caretaker again, even after Flora’s interference almost kills her brother.

In spite of this unpleasantness, The Soul of Kindness shows Taylor at her best and is, oddly, one of my favorite of her books. It’s an excellent satire on familiar social situations. Most of us are tempted to give advice. Only maturity helps keep it in proportion and understand how people can be different. Many of us have been part of a coterie with a dominating personality. The novel elegantly pictures a group of friends all revolving around their sun.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Historygirl wrote: "Flora is unbelievably self-centered , not able to understand other people, or perhaps even herself. Unfortunately, she also believes she can fix people’s lives:

“Although as good as gold, she had ..."

Hello Historygirl, thanks for your thoughts on this one.I don't think I have read another novel with a character like Flora before.I couldn't understand why her family and friends felt they couldn't tell her the truth about how her interfering affected everyone.


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Tania wrote: "I liked this one, though it wasn't one of my favourites. Several of the reviewers mention that Flora is what Emma would have turned ouy like without the guidance of Mr Knightly and Mrs ..."
Hi Tania, thanks for your thoughts on this one. Poor Kit ! I really felt sorry for him.He had a real infatuation for Flora didn't he


Tania | 43 comments Yes, I think if they had pulled her up and said something to her, she may have started to think about how her actions affected other people more. She had good intentions, but because she had always been protected by others, she never really had any understanding of other peoples needs. There was a line in there about how someone always had to look after her, while making her believe she was looking after them.


message 12: by Rosemary (last edited May 19, 2019 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rosemary The woman who assumes everyone loves her and is blind to her own faults is definitely a theme for Elizabeth Taylor! I really enjoyed this one, I think because of the range of characters and the 1960s feel to it.

Somehow I didn't find it depressing, although the situation of almost all of the characters is pretty hopeless at the end. Nobody seems to have much chance of getting what they want or finding a mutually loving relationship. Even Percy and Ba, who do have that, were happier before they were married.

I do hope that Mrs Lodge will be able to escape!


Karen | 211 comments Mod
Rosemary wrote: "The woman who assumes everyone loves her and is blind to her own faults is definitely a theme for Elizabeth Taylor! I really enjoyed this one, I think because of the range of characters and the 196..."
Hi Rosemary, thanks for your thoughts on this one.
I struggled to believe that Flora could be totally unaware of her actions.
I hope Mrs Lodge finds a way to escape too !


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