‘Was she a writer, then?’ a crematorium official asked after Elizabeth Taylor died. ‘Well, I expect the name helped a lot.’ As Nicola Beauman shows in this first biography, published thirty-four years after the novelist’s death, sharing a name with the much-married movie star was a hindrance in her lifetime, and continues to muddle her reputation.
Reviewing ‘Sisters’, Taylor’s story about an intrusive literary biographer, Paul Theroux compared it to The Aspern Papers. The truest likeness, though, is in James’s story ‘The Private Life’, about a solitary novelist whose creativity is protected by his doppelgänger: ‘One goes out, the other stays at home. One