The book begins in the last year of Queen Victoria’s reign, in the red brick terraces of the drab brewery town of Norley, England, and Angel is sixteen. She attends a private school paid for by her aunt who works as a lady’s maid for a wealthy woman. Angel has utmost disdain for her provincial life, her working class family, her schoolmates, her neighbors.
Angel dreams of more, finally refuses to go to school anymore, and feigning illness, stays in bed writing a novel. She sends it to Oxford Press, who pass on it and return it. She scrapes together enough money to send it to another publisher, whose name she scribbled from a book in the library. Although the book is awful, over the top, and inaccurate in so many areas, the publisher takes a chance on it, and it becomes a great hit with the reading public, although the critics hate it and savage it terribly.
Angel is completely egocentric, cares about no one except herself, continues to write book after book and becomes wealthy herself. She has wealth, but no manners and no taste. One day while out on a drive she comes across the dilapidated manor home where her aunt once worked when it was in its heyday, and because it was always her dream house, buys it and restores it.
She marries the somewhat neer-do-well painter son of a local country gentleman. The husband’s unmarried sister, who idolizes Angel, comes to live with her, and stays with her all her life. The husband is injured in the war (First World War), comes back to the home and falls into depression, does nothing, gives up his painting, and eventually drowns himself in the local lake.
Interests and trends change, her wild crazy fiction style goes out of style, and she and her companion friend become mired in poverty, slowly selling off all of the furnishing and artwork in the house so they would have food. They have no fuel, and the editor/friend of her publisher, now elderly himself, is appalled at how low she has fallen.
Angel is strange, eccentric, mean, self-centered, and one of the most unlikable woman protagonists in fiction. Great book! It really was!
The English author, Elizabeth Taylor, was born in the beginning of the 20th century, and was a popular if not terribly prolific writer, who has been compared to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Bowen.