The Reading Life Elizabeth Bowen Project
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin) is considered one of the best literary treatments of London during the periods of the bombing raids from the Germans during WWII (from Sept 1940 to May 1941-for 76 days straight London was bombed during this period.) So far I have read and posted on two of her novels, The House in Paris and Last September. I have also posted on some of her short stories as well as the excellent biography of Bowen by Victoria Glendinning. (Links to all of my post on Bowen can be found here).
I really like Elizabeth Bowen as a writer and as a person. I accept that she is not the genius that Woolf was and maybe she did not create groundbreaking art like Mansfield but I think there are things to be learned from Bowen that Woolf and Mansfield cannot teach us. You can also simply read and enjoy a Bowen work without having to first learn how to read it. The plots of her novels might just be ordinary but some of the conversations and the narrative are just stunning.
In my post-read research it seems the general feeling is at best mixed on In the Heat of the Night as a novel. Some found it boring and if you want non-stop action then maybe you will also. I do not agree with this assessment at all (no a big surprise!). The plot of the book involves a grown woman at least 37 or so and a man she meets and begins an affair with during the blitz. It was wonderful to hear the narrator of the novel explain the way the blitz tended to make women more approachable by unknown to them men to at least make their acquaintanceship . We saw how the bombs affected peoples libidos. We can almost feel the bombs hitting. We see London as a city more and more inhabited by ghosts (Bowen believed in ghosts and I respect this belief from her). We sense the fear of the citizens along with their fearlessness. As the book nears it close we hear for the first time of the broader war and even though of course I knew how the war ends I still found the telling of it exciting. It as if the narrator was afraid to even mention the broader war until it could be said with confidence the British will win.
I thought the depiction of the relationship of the central female character (whose lover is possibly a spy) to her adult son really exceptionally brilliant, just perfect in its subtle nuances of perception. There is also, as is common to all of her work, a preoccupation with houses, rooms and furniture.
I will next read her very last novel, Eva Trout as well as continue on in her short stories. I expect to do about ten more posts in all on Bowen near term.
Please share your thoughts and comments on Bowen with us-