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

Friday, February 11, 2011

"The House in Paris" by Elizabeth Bowen-New Reading Project

The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen  (1935, 239 pages)

I first read the work of Elizabeth Bowen (1889 to 1973, Dublin) after reading about her in Hermione Lee's great Virginia Woolf.   There are no public libraries here in Manila so I looked online for something by Bowen to read before I made any purchases.    I found a short story I really enjoyed,  "Demon Lover", that could be read online.    I then contacted the best book store in Manila and bought all the Bowen titles they had in stock.    I have already posted on Last September.    I additionally obtained  The House in Paris,  Eva Trout, The Heat of the Day  and a beautiful 800 page collection of her short stories.     After reading Victoria Glendinning's wonderful literary biography, Elizabeth Bowen, I think it would be hard not to like, admire and want to read a lot of the work of Bowen.   (There is no shortage of titles-Vintage Classics has about 25 in print.)    

The House in Paris is a great book about children and what they do and do not understand about adult relationships.   (There is an excellent introduction to the book from A. S. Byatt.)        As the book opens we are in a house in Paris in the 1930s.   Two children, though they have family ties, have been sent there to stay because of turmoil in their  own families.     Leopold is waiting to meet his own mother for the first time and Henrietta is waiting to take a train ride to meet her primary family.   There are twists and turns to the plot and lots of great conversations.    Bowen deeply understands the feelings of women and why they fall in love with who they do.   There is an amazing conversation about why young women fall for "bad boys" and why some women never grow out of this. . My guess is many will learn something about themselves from these lines.   I would say just to read those three or four lines makes the book worth reading.   You will know them when you read them.   I read them about five times and thought to myself "how could I pass this wisdom on to my three daughters, 12, 14 and 17?"      

When Bowen is at her best, her prose and diction is just to be marveled at.   

It is to early for me to make any  conclusions on Bowen.    I am really looking forward to reading more of her novels.    I am now 50 pages into The Heat of the Day which many consider among the very best novels set in WWII in London.   So far I admit I like it more than the The House in Paris and Last September.   

I think I will create an Elizabeth Bowen Reading Life Project to give myself an excuse to put her picture in my sidebar!      As a person and a writer Bowen was a "class act".    

I am going to read all of her 88 short stories but I will post only on the 10 to 15 consensus best works.   Harold Bloom, I was happy to see, lists the short stories of Bowen on his canon list.     

Please let us know of your experience with Bowen.   

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

Sounds great! I have never read Elizabeth Bowen but I think that I am going to like her. I am currently reading a collection of 20th ghost stories written by female authors and she has a story in the collection. I haven't read it yet but I am looking forward to it.

Its hard to believe that there are no public libraries in manila! Do you know why?

Suko said...

A new reading project for The Reading Life! I look forward to your posts on Elizabeth Bowen. I'm sure they'll be full of insights into her life and work.

JoAnn said...

The only Bowen I've read is The House in Paris, but I do plan to read more. Good luck with your new project... I look forward to following your progress.

Mel u said...

Becky-I bet the story is The Demon Lover-I posted on it but I learned I missed part of the point of the story recently in a Tweet conversation on it

Suko-thanks as always-I wish at least her best short stories were online you could easily read them

JoAnn-in truth a few months ago I never heard of her either-the book blog community is a tremendous learning resource

Hannah said...

I am so excited to see your future Bowen posts! You keep giving me all these wonderful short stories to read. Thank you so much.

Mel u said...

LifetimeReader-short stories would serve as a break in your project but still keep you on the canon reading plan-

Hannah said...

Absolutely. I've been using your idea lately and it is working out very nicely. (So far it is Margaret Drabble, for a collection to be published in May--but Alice Munro and Katherine Mansfield are both high on my list as well.)