The Reading Life Elizabeth Bowen Project
In February I began reading the collected short stories of Elizabeth Bowen (1899 to 1973-Dublin.) Angus Wilson divided the short stories up into sections based on the time frame in which they were first published. Wilson and Victoria Glendinning both see the stories set in WWII in London as the best of her stories and in fact as best of her work as a whole. After having read the full collection (it is not all of her stories) I see no reason to disagree. (There is some background information on Bowen in my other posts.)
I did not do individual posts on the stories of Bowen as I did on Katherine Mansfield primarily because almost none of Bowen's work can be found online for others to read.
I really loved this collection of short stories. I liked it so much I stopped reading it for about ten days when I came to the final four stories as I really hated to finish it. I will reread the best of her stories maybe next year and might post on them then.
I really recommend that anyone who likes well written short stories to read the full collection.
Angus Wilson does list 12 or so stories he thinks are best and Victoria Glendinning lists six stories she considers essential reading. Wilson's introduction is interesting and I really recommend highly Glendinning's biography of Bowen.
One pleasant way to start with Bowen would be The Manchester Guardian podcast of "The Jungle". "The Jungle" is a very good story about life in an upper class boarding school for teenage girls. I admit I loved it when the reader of this story, Tessa Hadley, said that Bowen was above Virginia Woolf in important ways.
Bowen's stories depict a rich subtle world worth living in. Her stories are not hard to follow. On the cover of the collection, Glendinning is quoted as saying Bowen is the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark. Bowen knew and was friends with many of those in the Bloomsbury set but she was not a member herself. (I almost want to say she had too much class!)
There will always be a picture of Elizabeth Bowen on my blog somewhere. (I wish I could find pictures of her in her early years as the only ones I can find online depict someone who looks like a very strict rigidly proper headmistress at an elite girl's school.
I have now begun reading The Collected Short Stories of Colette. I am not sure yet how I will post on this but my guess I will probably do three or four posts on the 600 page, 100 story collection. I am sure it will end up as another great Reading Life experience for me.
If anyone has a favorite Colette short story, please leave a comment.