During summer games of hide and seek Harriet falls in love with Vesey and his elusive, teasing ways. When he goes to Oxford she cherishes his photograph and waits for the letter that never comes. Years pass, and Harriet stifles her imaginings; with a husband and daughter, she excels at respectability. But then Vesey reappears and her marriage seems to melt away. Harriet is older, it is much too late, but she is still in love with him. The plot is simple but exquisitely rendered in prose both elegant and wry.
Reviewed by Sue Gee in Slightly Foxed Issue 58.
Hands across the Tea-shop Table
Sometimes in the long summer’s evenings, which are so marked a part of our youth, Harriet and Vesey played hide-and-seek with the younger children, running across the tufted meadows, their shoes yellow with the pollen of buttercups. They could not run fast across those uneven fields; nor did they wish to, since to find the hiding children was to lose their time together, to run faster was to run away from one another. The jog-trot was a game devised from shyness and uncertainty. Neither dared to assume that the other wished to pause and inexperience barred them both from testing this.
I first read A Game of Hide and Seek in my teens, at about the same age as Harriet and Vesey, running through the buttercup field in those opening lines, and I loved it so much that it hurt. For years I could hardly look at the dust jacket on the Book Club edition of 1951, given to my mother by her favourite niece, without an ache of the sadness and longing which Elizabeth Taylor so powerfully evokes in the story of two people who have always loved one another, but who will never be together.
I read it again in my thirties and still fell under its spell . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 58, Summer 2018
‘A novel in which love is never declared, but is meticulously evoked. No writer has described the English middle classes with more gently devastating accuracy.’ Spectator