Thursday, 22 July 2010

The devastating boys (Taylor)

I had been very keen to read The devastating boys since reading about it on someone's blog last year; it may have been Darlene's but the only review I can find is one on Rachel's blog which I didn't even comment on at the time! Anyway, I finally laid my hands on a 1p copy on Amazon, and was lucky enough to recieve a pristine original green edition of the book (it's always a bit hit and miss I find with Amazon marketplace, you can never be sure quite which edition you're getting and what sort of condition it will be in when it turns up). It has proved the perfect read for my teabreaks this week - I've finally come off the medication which was preventing me from reading, but I still felt a little daunted by the Viragos I have waiting for me, the majority of which are either large, or have very small print, or are large and have small print - whilst short stories they are, they are long enough to be really absorbing.

The title story was perhaps my favourite; a couple respond to an advertisement to take children from London for a holiday, his attention was attracted by the fact that coloured children might be sent (obviously more of an issue in the 1960s!). She anticipated having two little girls, who might be surrogates for her grown up daughters who have yet to fill the gap with grandchildren. But two boys are sent. The boys are confused by their surroundings and the couple are confused by their boys, the fact that they are not easily entertained, their tantrums and destructiveness. She counts down the days until their departure right from the start. In a fairy tale or book this would have an obvious happy ending; in a short story, there isn't such a need. We witness a tiny, imperceptible change in the boys towards the end of the stay, and although she is still keen to see them go, she is surprised to feel sad when she puts them on the train.

Onto the covers! I think the pictures used for the green Elizabeth Taylor covers are among some of the best of the original green Viragos (And I'm sorry Virago, but the latest Elizabeth Taylor covers are just not a patch on them). I love the beautiful flowers on my copy (although I would quibble that they're really not much in line with the title), and the flowers on the later modern green edition are equally beautiful and reminded me of the cover to my copy of Hester Lilly. Now this is definitely something that I'd like to own both editions of, purely for the covers.


  1. I took great interest in your review of "The Devastating Boys"- I am in the midst of an "Elizabeth Taylor" reading spree (for lack of better words). Right now I am well into "In a Summer Season" (after having devoured "Angel"). I really like Taylor's way of writing- and I wish that her books would be translated into my native language (Swedish) - so that many more of my countrymen (and women :-) could enjoy her.

  2. I think I have the second cover version, and have to agree that the flower paintings make great covers, I think they sum Taylor's writing up perfectly. Cornflower has a thing about matching books and paintings at the moment which makes me think of old virago covers. I like the new ones but love some of the old ones.

  3. I've just linked to your blog and have been enjoying reading it. I have a small library of around 50 Viragos. At one time, I picked them up whenever I saw them, so now have plenty to read at my leisure! Several of them are Elizabeth Taylors, whom I love.
    The Virago I'm reading at the moment is Miss Marjoribanks by Mrs Oliphant. Very funny, but TINY writing. Thank goodness for my reading glasses!
    I'm going to add you to my blogroll, so that I can follow your writings. :)

  4. I do like those floral covers. I've read half a dozen of Taylor's novels but not her short stories. I'd like to read them.