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Elisabeth Russell Taylor obituary: Belsize Park writer dies aged 90

PUBLISHED: 12:18 06 November 2020 | UPDATED: 09:10 09 November 2020

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

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An award-winning Belsize Park writer has died aged 90.

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handoutElisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

An award-winning Belsize Park writer has died aged 90.

Born in South Hampstead in 1930, Elisabeth Russell Taylor grew up in St John’s Wood and spent her last 55 years living in Belsize Park.

She began writing in middle age, and went on to publish six novels, two of them becoming Virago Modern Classics.

As a child, Elisabeth attended Frances Holland School in London and the Garden School in West Wycombe. She also studied French in Switzerland.

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handoutElisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

A first marriage, in 1950, did not last, and Elisabeth moved to Paris for several years where she lived with the musician Marcel van Thienen and studied at the Sorbonne. When Marcel took up a post in Haiti, Elisabeth returned to London.

For a short time she worked as a lingerie designer for Marks & Spencer. She also sold antiques from a stall in Bermondsey Market and began designing interiors, some of which featured in lifestyle magazines such as House Beautiful.

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In 1957 Elisabeth moved to Oxford with her second husband, Russell Taylor. The couple later lived together in New End, Hampstead.

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handoutElisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

Elisabeth met the painter Tom Fairs in 1962 and together they bought a flat from Bernice Rubens in Steeles Road, Belsize Park. It was there that Tom had his studio, and Elisabeth began writing in a study Tom designed for her. She began with children’s stories, includingThe Gifts of the Tarns (1977) - and later turned to adult novels and short-story collections such as Present Fears (1997) and Belated (2014).

Her writing explores themes of love, loss and abandonment. Tomorrow (Daunt Books, 2018), her most famous novel, is an elegiac tale of a middle-aged woman who makes an annual pilgrimage to a hotel on the Danish island of Møn.

A socialist, Elisabeth believed in the redistribution of property, the abolition of private schools, improved access to public libraries, affordable housing and assisted death.

A regular at both Fenton House and Kenwood House, where Tom sketched, Elisabeth was also a frequent visitor to Walden Books in Camden Town. She borrowed from the Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage libraries.

Elisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handoutElisabeth Russell Taylor (1930-2020). Picture: Family handout

Passionate about music, Elisabeth also travelled extensively to Africa, the US, the Middle East and much of Europe.

She died on 1 September after a long period of illness.

Elisabeth is survived by her brother Charles, and her son Jonathan.


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