Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen

"The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen (1945, 5 pages)

Elizabeth Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin) was a well known writer of short stories and novels.   Her best known work is the novel, The Heat of the Day (1949) which is considered one of the best literary treatments of London during the WWII years.    She moved to London at age eight.    She attended art school in London but decided that her primary talent was  writing.   She socialized with various Bloomsbury members and was a friend of Virginia Woolf.     Bowen is mentioned twenty times in Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf.   One gets the feeling that Bowen had an attitude of near worship toward Woolf.   The friendship between Woolf and Bowen was not as important to Woolf as her friendships with Katherine Mansfiield and Vita Sackville-West were.    By the time Woolf and Bowen became friends, Mansfield had already died and Woolf was quite famous.      

"The Demon Lover" is the best known and most highly regarded of  Bowen's short stories.    The central character of the novel, a 45 year old woman, comes in from the countryside in England during the WWII years to check on her long time residence.   Like a lot of people she left London during the worst of the Blitz and lived in the countryside but would come back to check on her property.    She is totally shocked when she sees a letter has been left for her on the dining table as there is no one who would bring a letter addressed to her inside her house.     She is even more shocked when she reads the letter:

Dear Kathleen: You will not have forgotten that today is our anniversary, and the
day we said. The years have gone by at once slowly and fast. In view of the fact
that nothing has changed, I shall rely upon you to keep your promise. I was sorry
to see you leave London, but was satisfied that you would be back in time. You
may expect me, therefore, at the hour arranged.
The lead character is now a totally respectable married woman of the utmost probity.    During WWI, some thirty years earlier when she was in her teens, she had a passionate affair with a soldier.   He  was a brutish kind of a man and her family did not at all approve of him.    He was declared missing during the war and presumed dead.   It has been so long the woman cannot even recall his face with any clearness.  This new letter is from him, it seems.   The story is short and beautifully told.   In no way did I find her style an imitation of Woolf.     I do not wish to give away the exciting  ending (I am still trying to figure out exactly what happened).    I did wish Hermione Lee would have told us more about the relationship of Woolf and Bowen than she does.     Perhaps after I read The Heat of the Day  I will read Victoria Glendining's biography of Bowen.   I am reading and will post on her biography of Vita Sackville-West very soon..

"The Demon Lover" can be read online HERE.    For sure it is worth the less than ten minutes it will take you to read it.

Mel u


Anonymous said...

I got the impression that Woolf had this love-hate relationship with Mansfield. I know she hated talking shop with her, and some of her diary entries were a bit nasty.

I jus love that these are available online. You're a fountain of knowledge!

Mel u said...

Yes for sure they had a difficult relationship-in my review of Claire Tomalin's excellent biography of Mansfield I give my thoughts on why Mansfield might have made Woolf uneasy at times-thanks so much for coming to my blog-

Unknown said...

Mel u -
I hope your well :)
This looks very interesting.

I have not been in my reader for over a month and am trying to catch up...

Mel u said...

Shellie-glad to see you back-I will be hosting my first giveaway next week for BBAW so please come back

Linda Lappin said...

Commenting on the relationship Woolf Mansfield - yes they did have a conflictual relationship indeed. The sense of rivalry was keen, and Woolf felt an overwhelming class superiority.
A cross reading of their diaries/letters shows that each found enormous stimulation in the other's work and ideas - but both were competitive and distrusting

Still -- Woolf poignantly remembered KM years after Mansfield's death - as some of her later diary entries show. But Mansfield chose not to include Woolf in the list of friends to whom she left books in her will

Short Story Slore said...

I read The Demon's Lover yesterday and loved it. Took a while to really get going in the story, but that ending was quite a shock! I got to the last paragraph unsure how there could only be one paragraph left to wrap up the whole story and then BAM. I can't wait to see what other stories you recommend from her.