At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor, published in 1945 (Virago Modern Classic).
This is the second Taylor book I've read (the first was Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont). I love her writing - simple on the surface, but so packed with tension just underneath and exploring the pros and cons of social norms in very compelling stories.
This novel takes place in a town outside of London during WWII - the war plays an important role in the book as it dictates what most of the characters are doing, but it too lives just under the surface; it is not often a subject for discussion even though Roddy is a member of the RAF. Julia, his unconventional wife, boldly pushes the envelope with her speech and behavior. Oliver is their precocious 7 year old son, a bibliophile often relegated to his bedroom. Eleanor, Roddy's cousin, lives with them; she has been in love with her cousin for years and doesn't approve of Julia.
They are living temporarily in Mrs. Lippincote's house, fully furnished with all of Mrs. Lippincote's photos, dishes, letters, knick knacks - temptations for the inquisitive Julia - and a locked attic full of clothing. Mrs. Lippincote's daughter appears unannounced every so often, a bit like the madwoman in the attic, to retrieve items of clothing - but we only get one glimpse and one brief visit from the title character herself.
Each character in the novel explores their own personal world, rarely communicating with each other the truth of who they really are and what they really desire. The women particularly (and young Oliver) go through significant changes in their world views and make some surprising decisions about the course of their lives.
A fine book by an underrated British writer. (4/5)