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, March 16, 2012

"Her Table Spread" by Elizabeth Bowen

"Her Table Spread" by Elizabeth Bowen (1938, 8 pages)

Elizabeth Bowen Day

Resources and Ideas for Irish Short Story Week
March 12 to March 22

The home of Irish women writers on the web

Link to "My Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen-only Bowen story you can probably read online- a good story but not her best.

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 22.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or and e mail and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge.  

My Prior Posts on Elizabeth Bowen

I love the short stories of Elizabeth Bowen.   I have posted on a number of times on her short stories and read her full collection and two of her novels and I refer you to those posts for general background information on Bowen.   Bowen's short stories about London during WWII are wonderful world class  treasures.

"Her Table Spread" was included by William Trevor in his great anthology, The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories and it was on this basis that I decided to post on the story.   William Trevor credits Bowen and James Joyce as establishing the Irish Short Story in its prominent place in world literature.

"Her Table Spread" is set in Ireland in a castle on an island just off the cost of Ireland,  on a fjord.  The castle and the island are owned by the twenty five year old Miss Cuffee.  Miss Valerie  Cuffee was a beautiful statuesque single woman with a healthy interest in men.   Miss Coffee has several aunts and uncles and others relatives living with her.  Sadly she is also learning disabled and not really able to take care of herself.  A man named Alban, about 40 and never been married with only it seems a marginal interest in women and none in Valerie has been invited there by her aunts for the purpose of courting Valerie in marriage.  The aunts feel that without a husband Valerie could do something crazy that might risk their comfortable positions.  

Then something exciting happens.  A British Navy destroyer docks very near the island.   This happened once before and at a dance at the country club on the mainland some how Valerie got infatuated with a Navy officer and hopes he is on the ship.  She goes running down to the edge of the island hoping he will be coming ashore to see her.  We do not know exactly what happened the last time a navy ship docked but  Valerie is just too excited for her own good, as her aunts see it.  They want her to marry the nice safe perhaps dull Alban.   Valerie is now so excited she mixes up Alban with the Navy Officer.   A lot happens in  just a few pages and I will tell no more of the plot.

Please share your experiences with Elizabeth Bowen with us.

For Irish Short Story Week Year Three (if this event does not take place, something has happened to me) I will post on the short story Frank O'Connor selected for his anthology Classic Irish Short Stories.


Nancy said...

My Demon Lover is not really her best? Hmmm, but I think I will still read it. I will read Her Table Spread as well. I just made a post on The Purple Jar by Maria Edgeworth.

@parridhlantern said...

Not read any of her tales, but have seen you mention her before, so will have to get round to her one of these day.

Unknown said...

Spoiler: The ambiguity of the ending in "Her Table Spread" gives the story a kind of enigmatic appeal. For the reader, hope of Valeria finding a suitable match is nil, but for Valeria there is still some glimmer of expectancy figured in "her arms wide" even though Alban has disappeared (like the destroyer) and Rossiter is "insensible." The image of the bat hanging upside down, likewise is enigmatic, with its nighttime liveliness held in check by the daylight, which the reader knows will not last.