After her mother's death 16-year old Portia is sent to London to live with her half-brother Thomas and his wife, Anna. They have a beautiful house overlooking Regent's Park and Matchett, the housekeeper, has been with the family for many years and rules the household. Portia is naive and child-like and finds the glamorous Anna and her home imposing and intimidating. When an 'unsuitable' young man takes an interest in Portia she is sent to stay by the sea.
Bowen is wonderful at leaving things unsaid. Although The Death of the Heart is the story of Portia it is Anna who dominates the novel and is by far the most interesting character. I particularly enjoyed the account of her reading extracts from Portia's diary and the Mrs Danvers-like Matchett accompanying Portia to school through a London fog and insisting that she keeps her scarf wrapped around her face and not to swallow any!
I've bought To the North because I plan to read more Elizabeth Bowen but not right now. Sometimes, only Austen will do!