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A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor – Read This And Break Your Heart

16th April, 2017

Book Review : A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

A story of loneliness, nostalgia and regrets when love chooses to play hide and seek with Harriet and Vesey’s lives.


1951 Club

Come April and it was time to pick a book for the 1951 club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish ramblings. This gave me a fair excuse to get myself this beautiful edition of A Game of Hide and Seek for my birthday in March. I picked it up soon after reading Mariana by Monica Dickens, one that I greatly enjoyed but did not love as much as the hype surrounding it. Moreover I had read Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont recently and did not love it though I would recommend it for a cosy read.

I started reading A Game of Hide and Seek with these apprehensions in mind, but I am so pleased to report back that not only did I love the book, it is one of the best books read this year. Having read only two novels by the author, I am pretty sure A Game of Hide and Seek will be my favourite Elizabeth Taylor novel as I cannot imagine another one topping the literary experience that this book presents.

This is the story of Harriet and Vesey who have known each other since childhood. Harriet’s mother and Vesey’s Aunt Caroline are best friends. They were suffragettes who were imprisoned together and now neighbours. Though Harriet’s mother has great hopes for her, Harriet is a nervous child – average at school,  with no ambitions  and would rather spend time day dreaming and picking flowers. When Vesey comes to stay with Aunt Caroline and family for the summer vacation, he and Harriet fall in love. Vesey is shown as an insensitive lad, like how most boys at eighteen are. He departs from the picture abruptly leaving a love-torn Harriet behind who gets herself a job at a gown shop. One year later, she meets Charles, a thirty five year old well settled solicitor, who proposes to her. Though Harriet is still waiting for Vesey to turn up, Vesey does not keep his promise. This, added to some unexpected events, force Harriet to choose a family life with Charles. She fits in her role of running the household almost seamlessly. In the next part of the book, we shift into the late 1940s when Vesey and Harriet meet again. Vesey is now a struggling actor who works for small second-rate theatre productions and Harriet has a prominent place in society and is the mother of fifteen year old Betsy.

Book Review: A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

The novel has very strong character sketches. The reader almost feels as if inside Harriet’s head. As for Vesey, I found myself warming to him as the novel nearly reaches its end. The second part of the book (when Harriet and Vesey meet again as middle aged people), Vesey still seems like an insensitive fellow. But Taylor brings out his goodness, his fears, his thoughts about Harriet as a teenager, in a subtle manner that you cannot help smiling and thinking ‘what if’. Both Harriet and Vesey are victims of misunderstandings, unsaid confessions and unexpressed feelings. Charles, who is aware of Harriet’s affections towards Vesey, feels his marriage threatened by Vesey’s presence. Taylor brings out his fears and agony as a husband while contrasting it to the desperation and yearning that Harriet and Vesey feel for each other.

The secondary characters are equally delightful. There are several scenes of the girls who work in the gown shop with Harriet, before her marriage to Charles. These passages were so wickedly funny that it was nice to read them sprinkled here and there. I loved Charles’s mother, Julia, with her sarcastic comments about Harriet and waiting in glee for news of a scandal. The Dutch maid, Elke, who struggles to understand the English way of life is another charming character.

The title for the book is just perfect. The whole novel is a game of hide and seek. Harriet and Vesey spend time playing hide and seek with Aunt Caroline’s children, which ignites their budding love. Later, in the second part of the book, when Vesey and Caroline meet, they first engage in a game of hide and seek with one another and later relish stolen moments hidden from Harriet’s family and society.

Book Review : A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

I often frown at how infidelity in a marriage is celebrated in some books marketed as love stories. But this was different. I found myself falling into the regrets in the minds of Vesey and Harriet and their pointless questions of ‘what if?’ and ‘could we re-live the past?’. I love the angle Elizabeth Taylor brings about in this love story. The novel is emotionally evocative and breaks your heart at several places. There is a good commentary about middle class life in England as well as domestic ideas of bliss. The ending ends on a slight ambiguity, but is beyond perfect.

Final Verdict :

A Game of Hide and Seek is the story of the silliness of young love, the characteristic insensitivity of men  whom we first fall in love with, the nostalgia of the past and an echo of loneliness that only love can silence. If you do not mind breaking your heart into tiny little pieces and living vicariously through the desperation of the characters, I would highly recommend the read.

Title : A Game of Hide and Seek
Author : Elizabeth Taylor
Publisher : Virago Press
Published : 1951
Language : English
Pages : 306
Rating : 5/5

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A Game Of Hide And Seek
This Post Has 36 Comments
  1. This is a beautiful review. In reading it, I couldn’t help but think that the themes/plot line are timeless. Many books published today are along the same lines as A Game of Hide and Seek, a book more than 60 years old.

  2. This is the second glowing review I’ve read for A Game of Hide and Seek in the past few days. Elizabeth Taylor is such an interesting writer; I haven’t read Hide & Seek yet (Angel is the only Taylor book I’ve read) but your review suggests this is a better read than Miss Palfrey so it’ll likely get bumped up my list fairly soon. Lovely review.

    1. Oh yes! A Game of Hide and Seek is definitely a favourite for me, I hope you will love the read when you pick it up. The characters are so realistic and Taylor has conveyed the emotions, confusions and frustrations very well. Did you like Angel? I have heard it is a great book and I would love to read it soon.
      Thank you for visiting. 🙂

  3. I’ve had this author on my list of ‘really should read’ but not decided on which particular book to choose, it sounds as though this is one I’d enjoy, especially with the background of the suffragettes

    1. I hope you will enjoy the read when you pick it up. I must disappoint you by saying that the novel does not focus on the suffragettes, other than mentioning it in a line or two. The major part of the novel focusses on the characters and their thoughts and frustrations

  4. I love this novel, my favourite Elizabeth Taylor novel. Interesting that you found Mrs Palfrey a cosy read- I didn’t get that at all. I thought it a novel with a lot to say about ageing and loneliness, I found my second reading of it particularly poignant. Still, so glad you loved A Game of Hide and seek. Elizabeth Taylor remains one of my favourite writers.

    1. I really enjoyed A Game of Hide and Seek, I am so glad I picked it up. I want to read Angel next. I have been hearing good things about that one.

      I see what you mean about Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. I agree it has thoughts on loneliness and ageing. But maybe I picked it up at a wrong time to read because I felt those themes were not as strong as they should have been. I felt there was more of an emphasis on how the friendship between Mrs. Palfrey and Ludo grows; how he struggles to make ends meet etc. And I found some of the conversations, especially between the different residents of Claremont, to be delightfully funny. So I felt less connected to the book in terms of the themes it was supposed to showcase and enjoyed more of the other things mentioned. Of course, maybe it all comes down to reading it at a wrong time or having too high expectations since some of my friends really loved the book. I did not feel a kindred connection to Mrs. Palfrey, but I enjoyed reading the novel and felt a bit sad when it ended. However in case of A Game of Hide and Seek, I was so emotionally invested in the characters and I felt Taylor succeeds in writing an evocative novel using her characters.

  5. Great review – and so glad you liked it so much! I think my favourite Taylor novel is her first, At Mrs Lippincote’s – but I’ve only read five or six, and plenty more to try. I also have heard great things about her short stories, so must read some of those.

    1. I must read At Mrs. Lippincote’s then. I really loved the way she writes in A Game of Hide and Seek. I will surely be exploring more of her works. Thank you for hosting the 1951 club. I look forward to the next one.

  6. I have seen so much love for Elizabeth Taylor in the book blogging world that I really think I should get around to reading one of her books. So glad to hear from another fan! And your photos are beautiful, as always!

    1. Thank you Naomi. I highly recommend A Game of Hide and Seek as an intro into Elizabeth Taylor’s works. I should not be saying this because I have not read many of her works. But this book is worth the read. Such well crafted characters.

  7. I haven’t read any books by Elizabeth Taylor, but your review really makes me want to read A Game of HIde and Seek. It sounds like such a beautiful story. I’m glad you loved it so much!

  8. Beautiful review!

    “I often frown at how infidelity in a marriage is celebrated in some books marketed as love stories. But this was different. I found myself falling into the regrets in the minds of Vesey and Harriet and their pointless questions of ‘what if?’ and ‘could we re-live the past?’. I love the angle Elizabeth Taylor brings about in this love story.”

    This is giving me “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks vibes…

    LOVE your edition and your pictures as per usual 🙂

    1. Thank you Amanda. I loved the fact that Taylor spent a considerable time getting the reader acquainted with the psychological trauma of her characters. It made them more relateable

  9. Well done you. This was on my TBR list but I didn’t get there. Everyone sounds as though they loved it….I’m a bit late coming to this party….I am such a slow reader…very frustrating.

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