When I picked up A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor at my library, I was confused. I knew the actress Elizabeth Taylor had written a diet book because I read my Mum’s copy thirty years ago*, but a novel? I have to admit, I was not surprised when this author turned out to be a different Elizabeth Taylor.
A Game of Hide and Seek is the story of Harriet and Vesey, who have known each other all of their lives. As teenagers, they are in love with each other but are so shy and uncertain and awkward with the world and with each other, that their romance never goes past their first kisses. Harriet’s awareness of Vesey in particular is almost like another sense, it is so strong.
They are separated when Vesey leaves to go to Oxford and over the next twenty years only see each other infrequently as they go on to live their own lives, but they remain in love with each other.
After Vesey’s departure, Harriet got a job in a shop, then married Charles, a solicitor much older than herself. They have a daughter and Harriet lives a respectable and ordinary life with him. Vesey became an actor, making a living but not much more. He never married.
In middle age, Harriet and Vesey meet again, and almost start a physical affair, although they stopped themselves before this happened in a spirit of self-sacrifice.
This is a story of ‘almost.’ Harriet and Vesey are ordinary to the point of boring, but their love for each other is not. I was sad reading this story, wishing for them they had settled their future together when they had the chance, although I suspect if they had in fact made a life together, their passion for each other would not have lasted. Not being able to be together made their love a much bigger thing than it might otherwise have been.
As a teenager, Vesey was selfish and inconsiderate, and as an adult, he was unable to take care of himself. He lived in a hand-to-mouth fashion, in dirtiness and squalor. Harriet probably had a lucky escape in not marrying Vesey. With Charles, she was well off, cared for and loved, although Charles was aware of and jealous of Harriet’s love for Vesey.
The writing in A Game of Hide and Seek is beautiful. The story is told quietly and slowly, although there are some very funny sections. One of my favourites was a couple going through their bookcases with the intentions of giving some to charity. Easier said than done, as the characters found good reasons to keep each book. One couldn’t throw out either of her copies of Little Women, which I well understand, as I have three copies which I will never part with. (One is my childhood copy and the other two copies have beautiful pictures. Don’t ask this of me).
A Game of Hide and Seek was a happy find for me. I am hoping to read more books by this author.
*In Mum’s defence, she never followed Elizabeth’s Taylor’s diet. She just loved Elizabeth Taylor (the actress) and especially, her jewellery.