Sunday, 12 December 2010

Elizabeth Bowen

There was a smell of freesias and sandalwood: it was nice to be in from the cold park.
A man and woman meet in Regent's Park in frosty midwinter. Clad in furs and deep in conversation they pause on the icy footbridge. When the intense cold becomes unbearable and dusk falls they make their way back through the inch of park gate which has been left open for them.

Elizabeth Bowen's novel The Death of the Heart opens with a wonderful wintry London setting. Bowen is another writer I've been meaning to read this year and I've a couple of weeks left to do it in! I'd be interested in other recommendations for her novels. Justine Picardie's post earlier this year made me want to read this one.

14 comments:

Carolyn said...

Yes, yes, yes! Is my first response on seeing you're reading Elizabeth Bowen and Death of the Heart in particular. :D Not really a happy book, but one that means a lot to me. The opening scene with the swans and the ice is beautiful. After I read it, I eventually had to amass a collection of almost all her novels and short stories too, just because they're hard to come by in bookstores or libraries and I needed my own stock. I've only read The Last September of her other books so far though, but really enjoyed it, it's set in Ireland in the early '20s and highlights the growing unrest between the Irish, English, and the landowning Anglo-Irish who rest uneasily in between. And of course there's a young woman coming of age and tennis parties and all of that. Here's my review of it.

LifetimeReader said...

I'm eager to read Bowan soon. I've heard such lovely things--and am eager to see what you think. In addition, I am very pleased to run across the bio of George Eliot that you have listed in your sidebar. New to me!

Frisbee said...

I'm thrilled you're writing about Death of the Heart. It's one of my favorite books. Now I'll have to put it on my rereading list.

Nan said...

Oh, gosh I read this a long time ago, when I was closer to the girl's age. :<) I remember it fondly. I want to read The Last September. Have you seen the film? It is really quite good. Wonderful actors.

Karenlibrarian said...

I've had this book on my to-read shelf for several years, I need to move it up on the reading list. I keep hearing such good things about her books. Thanks for reminding me.

Frances said...

I am a huge Bowen fan and think that you are starting in exactly the right spot. After this, I would recommend The House in Paris. Suspenseful in a quiet way, descriptive, sad. So moving a story told in her spare style. Elegant.

Chrissy said...

I envy anyone who has all of Elizabeth Bowen's books ahead to read. I love every one of her superb novels and agree with Frances that The House in Paris is a jewel of a book, perhaps my favourite book full stop!
Will you be reviewing it?

Steph said...

Sounds like a perfect winter read! Bowen is an author who I've yet to read, despite owning several of her books!

potterjotter said...

Crumbs .... I've never heard about her at all - where have I been? But she does sound like she writes for me. So will definitely put on my reading list.

Penny said...

I was sure I had this one, but can't find it anywhere! Such a pity as I'm looking for another winter book, having just finished the one I've been reading, while waiting in a very long queue in a shop (50 minutes, would you believe! So glad I had a book with me!)
I must get on with Elizabeth Bowen, though. I have a couple of her books, just not this one, apparently...

Shelley said...

On the previous post: although it couldn't be further from the time and place of my writing, thanks to this blog I just requested Gaskell's North and South from Interlibrary Loan. I'm escited.

makedoandread said...

Oh, I haven't read that one, and it sounds perfect wintry weather reading. Thank you for the recommendation...I'm a big fan of her novel, The Little Girls.

Shelley said...

Just dropping by to say season's greetings. I'm carrying North and South with me on the airplane!

Have a relaxing day.

Vintage Reading said...

Merry Christmas all, I do love your bookish comments and everyone is so knowledgeable about writers and books, they are a pleasure to read.

Carolyn, I've read your review and I've added The Last September to my reading plans for 2011. She is a remarkable writer and of course, it is a completely different world she is writing about. In The Death of the Heart everyone smokes like chimneys and there are a couple of references which would be considered offensive today, but I think you have to keep a sense of time and place when reading literature from the early 20thC. I'll be following your progress through Bowen's work and intend to read more myself.

LifetimeReader, I have to be honest and say that I never got through the Eliot bio! Love her fiction but I'm not so good with biography and non-fiction.

Frisbee, I'm so glad I finally got around to reading Bowen. Very clever writer, probably not the warmth of Rebecca West who is my favourite writer of the first part of the 20thC, but I will definitely read more.

Nan, I haven't seen any films of Bowen's work. I'm going to read The Last September, though.

Karen, certainly worth reading Bowen. I would recommend Rebecca West, too if you are interested in women's fiction from early part of 20thC.

Frances, it's wonderful to find Bowen fans, because I've not seen many reviews of her work on book blogs. Yes, there is an elegance about her writing and she has a deft comic touch, too.

Chrissy, didn't even know about The House in Paris, but as there are two recommendations I'll add it to my tbr plan for 2011, thank you for alerting me to it.

Steph, yes, The Death of the Heart has a lovely wintery opening and I did like the London setting.

potterjotter, Bowen seems to have a low profile in book blog land - we must address that!

Penny, queues, delays and hold-ups are simply an opportunity for us book bloggers to read!

Merry Christmas, Shelley, enjoy North and South!

makedoandread, hadn't heard of The Little Girls either. Thank you for letting me know about it.