Elizabeth Bowen


“In these surrounding little streets, lit up like aquariums and tonight anonymous, saunterers passed me in vague shoals”. – from A Time In Rome

“The cautious steps of women when something has happened came downstairs, sending vibrations up the spine of the house.” – from The House in Paris

“It came to be rumoured that everybody in London was in love”. – from The Love-charm of Bombs

Elizabeth Bowen has made an unexpected appearance in my life this week. I started reading novels and travelogues about Italy a few weeks ago, as I think that is where I am probably going on my summer trip. While looking through a book of essays on Rome I noticed one by Bowen, saw that it was from a book she had written on the city and decided to buy it. A Time in Rome arrived on Monday.

I then read a post on EmilyBooks about how she almost forgot to get off her train in Inverness because she was so engrossed in The House in Paris, remembered I had a copy and decided to start reading it (and I am engrossed, too).

Then, while reading more about Bowen and her life on several websites, I saw the book The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War by Lara Feigel mentioned several times. I checked my library’s catalog for it and was pleased to find it on the shelf at my branch. Bowen is one of the authors profiled in the book.

I have tried to read Bowen before and didn’t have the patience to stick with her prose style – her sentences are sometimes long and curiously arranged. I must be ready for her now, though, as I am in love with her writing and stayed up much too late last night reading The House in Paris. I am always amazed when the right authors turn up at the right times in my life and it is a reminder to me to give authors a second chance.

Have you read Elizabeth Bowen?

What authors are you glad you didn’t give up on?

16 thoughts on “Elizabeth Bowen

  1. I know that I’ve often handled her books in the past but I don’t think I’ve ever actually read any. You make me think that I’m missing something so I’ll definitely look out for her books now. Thanks.


    1. They are hard to get into at first, and I admit I even struggled near the end of The House in Paris, but I love her use of language and her subtlety. It is good stuff.


    1. I am so glad I tried The House in Paris again. I love it and can’t wait to read more of her novels. You really have to be in the mood to read her books, though.


  2. This is another author I have only learned about since I started blogging, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across her books. I’m noticing lately that it often takes me 2-3 tries to read a book – sometimes months or even years apart. I put a lot of books back unread, to try again later – unless I really don’t like them, then they go to the library sale or Paperback Swap.


  3. I think I was lucky in that I started with The House in Paris which really worked for me – this made me not give up when I became very bogged down in The Heat of the Day. You are spot on about her style – she requires so much concentration. I am keen to read more though, because her writing is also beautiful and her story-lines have that slight bizarreness (when you constantly wonder what could happen next) that I find completely captivating.


    1. Vicki, you are so right. Having to concentrate so hard while reading her novels is what put me off in the past, but The House in Paris turned out to be a gateway Bowen for me! Now, I am used to her style and can’t wait to read more. It is similar to what happened when I tried to read Elizabeth Taylor – another novelist who requires concentration to read her books.


  4. I received a copy of The House in Paris for Christmas and am looking forward to discovering Elizabeth Bowen through it, as I’ve heard many people rave about her style. The only other novel I’ve read by her was Death of the Heart, years ago. It wasn’t a very memorable reading experience, but I suspect I may have been too young to appreciate her work.


    1. I think she is a writer who more mature readers will appreciate more than younger readers. Her style is subtle and requires dedication and clarity. I have a copy of Death of the Heart and hope to read it soon. I hope you enjoy The House in Paris – it is really quite remarkable.


  5. I liked Death of the Heart. The opening is very strong with its setting in frozen Regents Park in London and the two lovers meeting on the bridge. Wouldn’t say she’s one of my favourite writers but you’ve made me want to read her again.


    1. I think she may become one of my favorites! I quite like her imagery and her characters – they don’t do what I want or expect them to do. That is always refreshing. Death of the Heart’s opening scene sounds wonderful.


    1. It might not be the right time for you to read Bowen, but I hope you do read her someday. A clear mind is definitely required and that can be difficult with the chaos of day to day life upon us. I can picture reading her books by the pool or on the beach when I have no worries.


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