This book demonstrates how a predatory man will tell you, and tell you, and tell you that he s predatoryand how a lonely, young girl will refuse to see it It demonstrates how a jaded, older woman can resent a young girl s innocence with inexplicable venom Bowen shows all this andwith beauty, wit, and grace Her book is about innocence, corrupted But Bowen, herself, is a great defender of innocence Armed only with turn of phrase, she gives all concerned their due comeuppance.
Though it was written and set in the 1930 s, the book has a very Victorian, hearthside feel It s a warm, dry, quotable novel You listen quietly, or laugh low, as shadows play on the drawing room walls This dread had haunted her tardy sleep, and sucked at her when she woke like the waves sucking the shingle of the terribly quiet morning air She enjoyed being in the streets unguarded smiles from strangers, the permitted frown of someone walking alone, lovers looks, as though they had solved something, and the unsolitary air with which the old or the wretched seemed to carry sorrow made her feel people that at least knew each other, if they did not yet know her, if she did not yet know them The closeness she felt to Eddie, since this morning that closeness one most often feels in a dream was a closeness to life she had only felt, so far, when she got a smile from a stranger across a bus It seemed to her that while people were very happy, individual persons were surely damned So, she shrank from that specious mystery the individual throws about himself, from Anna s smiles, from Lilian s tomorrows, from the shut in room, the turned in heart.
This book is one of the reasons why I believe stories are redeeming Like food, second chances, bringing back to life a deadened heart.
I love this book intensely as if it has some kind of gravitational pull or hold on me that reminds me of it during times of feeling what I cannot put name to Frame of reference stuff I found that I love itas time passes and the life it still lives in my mind takes its place beside some of the most important moments I ve had um or something I ve just made into something big by over analysing it to death The shaping stuff or just breaking stuff Some have said it s a nothing happens book but those would be the people who don t watch everything around them and turn it into big or little stories that turn into altering events when, really, not much had happened as anything but emotional stuff If having your heart broken is nothing happened, sure, nothing happened.
I read years ago closing in on a decade a comment onthat described this book as the dark flip side of Dodie Smith s I Capture the Castle that review led me to another favorite Thank you, brilliantuser That s an excellent description The dark side to noticing too much about the every day stuff Hating being reminded of the trivial, of being forced to examine the increasingly sameness of the meaninglessness of every day What if looking outward or inward was akin to a shark stopping his swim I m unable to stop my own painful personal inventory taking, unfortunately With knowledge comes responsibility, or something Portia has come to live with her half brother, Thomas, and his wife, Anna, for a year out of obligation They don t know what to do with her, and she doesn t know what to do with them other than watch and hope for some cue They never do the right thing.
Portia has been keeping a diary to record her observations of life, with them I m too pleased with myself now Her diary says I m in London, with them and Anna s snooty writer friend St Quentin says that the comma is style Bring forth the sharks Thomas and Anna were quite comfortable with their previous life Portia is an intruder on that life with her reminder of the affair Thomas s father had, and reading Portia s diary makes Anna unable to forgive or forget those staring eyes that record everything she does, not in judgement, but matter of fact facts She doesn t like the viewing.
Anna s boy toy buddy Eddie doesn t like the fit of playing entertaining monkey or whatever else they want for Anna s stylish crowd He spies Portia standing innocently in the entrance, holding his hat, and that sparks his interest He likes knowing nothing to pin his fantasy on a reflection of himself, no doubt Portia does not want anything from him, yet Eddie hates and loves himself, and that pulls him apart Poor Portia She cannot see the playing part also feeds his ego as well as shames him.
They meet Col Brut in the theatre one of the things that they can take Portia to do Teenagers in the early twentieth century did not have a market catered to them like today, this book brings home to me Another reminder of a past Anna would rather forget There was a passionate side with a former lover, unlike the expected lines of her marriage to Thomas Anna doesn t like to do anything she doesn t do well It s no wonder that relationship failed The passage of Col Brut long carried memory of his forever ago day, with Anna and her boyfriend, is heartbreaking He fed off it as a light to warm the rest of his lonely life Bowen s description of this scene is one of my favorites I ve ever read Col Brut built them up into something they really weren t, as Portia did with Eddie He didn t have a lot else to grasp in a world that has passed him completely by Sometimes what we hold onto to get by is tenuous, at best While we can have it, it is still worth something, like the price of bread to a starving man Much of this book makes me pinpoint, Ah, so that s how I felt I couldn t begin to say how much Bowen s book means to me in that weight I might inventory, but expressing it as well as Bowen No way.
Another person that Thomas inherited was his mother s maid, Matchett I loved Matchett s love of Thomas hapless father there was something noble about him, if ultimately spineless I loved how she did the work for the sake of the work, and not to please anyone She says that the best work doesn t come out of those who do it to please you This is true, and it is still true that employers want that kind anyway Her love of Portia is jealous and in secret it is sad that she doesn t allow herself to haveBowen comes off as a snob in some biographries written about her Some things I read made me sad indeed, but her care of Matchett belies that feeling Matchett does love the work, and it is not a position to please anybody else The rest is how we can fuck ourselves up with rules It s one thing to build up love in your mind to get through, and then what next Matchett does not have the courage to throw herself out there, as Portia did One could argue that she knew better, was not innocent enough to do so, but if you don t do it sometime, when One day you re eaten by a shark I like to think she does finally allowwith Portia, in the end It d be the right thing.
Irene, Portia s mother, meant a lot to me as well The happy life they had in hotels of watching all of the different people, and the lack of hiding that that breeded in Portia I d have missed it too And, I do It was sad and crazy and I d love to hide in that fake world of traveloften.
Mrs Quayne tossed her husband out because she liked herself to feel sorry for Irene Elizabeth Bowen did not shy away from what people like to think about themselves It s dangerous to think too much about yourself, too.
I hate Anna My ex read this and really hated Eddie, Portia s almost boyfriend I really hated Anna Eddie is fucked up on how other s see him and what people want Hers is the unthinking sharklife that resented Portia s innocent eye turned on her for she didn t want to think of herself in any other way that glib society life terms This is a person I couldn t have been around How Portia s eye disturbed her, I d have been disturbed by the gloomy feeling that life is supposed to be like THAT I cannot stomach the idea.
For a time, Portia is shipped off to the seaside to stay with Anna s former governness, and her children, like slutty Daphne Thomas and his wife flee Portia I hated them for that I also related to Portia when the daughter Daphne views Portia with scornful disdain because she doesn t smoke and sleep around I never, ever understood girls who lorded that over a young me as if they weremature I had experiences I didn t want God forbid I was gonna succumb to pressure from pimply boys on top of it Bitchiness is not maturity Give me a break.
I wanted very much to leap into the pages and take Portia out to the movies, and walks in the park She d have fared better with me by her side I d have told her straight out those people were stupid bitches and not to worry about them.
Something today made me think back again to The Death of the Heart in my trains of thought It was something on if innocence is overrated or not, or at least considered too much an important fact I won t get into an already jumbled review on why I was thinking about that This book came to mind because of the line about Eddie and Portia s innocence forces combined devastating what it comes into contact with Bowen s writing is, needless to say, 1000 miles leagues over the sea better than my sentence Is innocence really that important It s nothing but a lack of experience or knowledge Does, for example, not having been in a relationship prepare you, or not, for starting one Eddie wishes that Portia had been dumped before so she d know how to behave the idea that lots of breakups makes someone behave during another one is ludicrous He wanted cool, society glib Anna You re yourself, before an experience, and afterward It s not destructive in of itself to not know what you are doing Only if you live each and every day exactly as the one before it I minterested in if it is too late In the point of no return Redemption Portia was not a blank canvas, anyway She just didn t know when to look away to make others comfortable I still don t know that and no way am I an innocent I m starting to think that I don t believe in coming of age stories that don t end in death Of the heart It s like Matchett, what she allowed herself to have And Eddie, too messed up from what he thought others wanted It doesn t have to be that way You pick yourself up and move on because we are built ofthan that The ending is open, and I believe that is what happens No death No sharks.
Portia is thought of as one of those children that stare and see too much that you never knew what happened to them later I feel like I m one of those I ve got the staring problem down I m not very good at fixing my facial expressions to something less emotional I guess I would really recommend this book to people who have staring problems You d really get Portia I wouldn t recommend it for someone who doesn t watch people and see stories everywhere Reading too much into everything is a requirement.
I ve read most of Bowen s other works, and found something in all of them The Death of the Heart is the only book this close to my heart, though Relevance to me personally, this is it, the book The Last September was my first, and it is beautiful I couldn t, however, feel sorry for them losing their way of life I m still waiting for someone to arrive and do the right thing for me There was a time in my youth when I fell in love with Elizabeth Bowen Her gorgeous high baroque prose style ravished me You know how sometimes a writer announces herself as a soulmate, settles herself thrillingly into your mind and begins to help you see withclarity an aesthetic of the world you had only previously sensed Elizabeth Bowen, following Virginia Woolf, did that for me I felt we were soul mates And Death of the Heart was my favourite of her novels Essentially it s a novel about innocence But Bowen adds something new to the standard ideas of innocence For one thing it s not necessarily a virtue in her eyes Just the opposite in fact Bowen sees innocence as a health hazard for civilised society And, through the 16 year old orphan Portia, she explores the dismantling havoc innocence can wreak on civilisation s defence structures here represented by Anna and Thomas, a somewhat decadent married pair whose life is mostly refined ennui and whose home Portia enters Portia herself was born outside of civilisation s defensive ramparts the child of an illicit affair on the part of Thomas s father and an abiding source of shame to Thomas So Portia enters the house as an enemy And Portia, like most solitary outcasts, is a keen observer She keeps a diary Death of the Heart is also a novel about secrets and betrayal Both Anna and Thomas have guilty secrets Most of all perhaps the sham nature of their marriage And when Anna deviously reads Portia s diary it s as if this sham is suddenly and fatally exposed Portia too feels betrayed One s sentiments call them that one s fidelities are so instinctive that one hardly knows they exist only when they are betrayed or, worse still, when one betrays them does one realize their power Portia s subsequent attempts to find a new home, both symbolically and literally, first with the rake Eddy and then the equally innocent and homeless Major Brunt wreak further havoc Bowen s sense and therefore evocation of place is one of her great strengths as a writer Few writers can conjure up place with so much haunting pulsing atmosphere whether it s the soulless harmonies of Windsor Terrace where Anna and Thomas live, Regent s Park with its icy lake and, later, blooming roses, the seaside town of Seale or the seedy Bayswater hotel which down at the heel Major Brunt calls his home Place in her books has agency In this book place is home the idea of home as sanctuary being another theme of this novel After inside upheavals, it is important to fix on imperturbable things Their imperturbableness, their air that nothing has happened renews our guarantee Pictures would not be hung plumb over the centres of fireplaces or wallpapers pasted on with such precision that their seams make no break in the pattern if life were really not possible to adjudicate for These things are what we mean when we speak of civilization they remind us how exceedingly seldom the unseemly or unforeseeable rears its head In this sense, the destruction of buildings and furniture ispalpably dreadful to the spirit than the destruction of human life.
The title of this novel could easily be the title of each of the other Elizabeth Bowen novels I ve read so far, The Last September, Eva Trout, and The House in Paris In all of them, young vulnerable people are acted upon by older seasoned people, resulting in change, change that is from then on irrevocable, as when the heart dies No resuscitation, no return to the previous innocent state is possible Bowen records this process as if she were a documentary maker with an artistic eye, catching the full brutality of people s behavior towards one another, but presenting it in a series of softly lit, slow motion episodes that render even the cruel beautiful Her camera caresses every single thing in this story right from the beginning a dark hallway, a white apron, a circle of lamplight, a young girl writing in her diary Three hundred and fifty pages and many frames later, the young girl has been well and truly acted upon by the people she meets in the house with the dark hallway But the contents of her diary have caused change in others as well She may have joined the ranks of those whose hearts are dead, but the spasm of her transformation has sent shock waves through the desiccated organs of everyone around her Innocence sometimes makes victims out of its destroyers.
Death of the Heart is widely considered Elizabeth Bowen s masterpiece I hadn t previously read any of her work but I didn t quite love this as much as I expected Perhaps for all its refined sensibility and astutely critical social comedy there simply wasn t quite enough at stake to make it compelling for me The concept of home looms large People either have homes or they don t Portia, the main character, is a sixteen year old orphan who has lived most of her life in hotels on the continent due to the ignominious nature of her parent s relationship which begins as an extra marital affair The novel begins when she is taken in for a year by her much older half brother and his highly sophisticated and disappointed wife, Anna Portia only really connects with other homeless people, principally the caddish Eddie, who might or might not be having an affair with Anna When Anna reads Portia s diary and Portia finds out the fa ade of middle class proprietary in the household is shattered and everyone begins to feel nakedly exposed The characters are all excellently drawn, the writing is often superb but at times the plot felt a bit forced, epitomised by the very stylised unnatural dialogue and the rather unconvincing nature of Portia and Eddie s relationship I never quite believed Eddie, a handsome twenty three year old who has had a novel published would be attracted to the rather childish sixteen year old Portia I never understood what relevance it had that he was a published author especially as there s another published author in the novel It s a small detail but why could Eddie not have been nineteen and not a published author On the other hand, Portia s other unsuitable suitor is the elderly Major Brutt who is down on his luck and living in a hotel He was a fabulous character So, not bowled over but there wasthan enough I liked to ensure I ll read another Bowen.
The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth BowenThe Death of the Heart is a 1938 novel by Elizabeth Bowen set in the interwar period It is about a sixteen year old orphan, Portia Quayne, who moves to London to live with her half brother Thomas and falls in love with Eddie, a friend of her sister in law At the beginning of the novel, Portia moves in with Anna and Thomas Quayne after her mother dies Portia is Thomas s half sister Mr Quayne Thomas s father had an extramarital affair with Irene Portia s mother while married to Thomas s mother When Irene became pregnant, and Mrs Quayne learned of it, she was adamant that he do what was the right thing so, at his own wife s unyielding insistence, Mr Quayne divorced Thomas s mother and married Irene Mr Quayne, Irene, and Portia then left England and traveled through Europe as exiles from society and from the Quayne family, living in the cheapest of lodgings Irene and Portia continued to live in this fashion until, when Portia was 16, Irene died Portia was sent to live with Thomas and Anna after Irene s death The plan is that she is to stay with them for one year at which time Portia will leave and move in with Irene s sister Portia s aunt 2016 1391 320 9786009067466 20 1930 The Death of the Heart a pretty melodramatic title, don t you think I mean, I was expecting a torturous, ruinous love affair Instead I got a sixteen year old whose auntie read her diary Still, I enjoyed the story a great deal The recently orphaned Portia goes to live with her half brother and his disapproving wife There she meets a cruel character who wins her heart then tosses her out with the rubbish once she has become too needy It doesn t take much to win her heart, however Needy girls are ripe for the picking by filthy little scoundrels like Eddie But in his defense, he did tell her again and again and again that he was no good She just refused to hear him, even when he showed her the snips and snails and puppy dog tails dirty little social climbers are made of.
Poor sweet Portia I hope she finds her place in the world, but something tells me it will be an uphill battle Here are some songs for you, PortiaFoo Fighters Dear Lover Courteeners Please Don t Monkeys Bigger Boys Stolen Sweethearts Can t Stand Me Now Here is the story in a nutshell Portia becomes an orphan at the age of sixteen She has a married half brother living in London, Thomas and his wife Anna He is thirty six and she twenty six Is Portia welcomed by them No, not really To one she is an embarrassment To the other an encumbrance, a nuisance, but of course they agree to take her in for a year It is the proper thing to do The plan is to then send her off to a maternal aunt The story concerns what happens during this year The behavior of each character reveals their respective personalities The setting is both London and Seal, Kent You can read a story for what happens, OR you can read for quite simply the enjoyment of the words, how an author has drawn emotions and scenes and behavior How words are strung together can make you smile, laugh, make you sad or make you think The words of this author do this for me I quite simply enjoyed how ideas and thoughts and events were expressed Regency Park in London, the physical presence of a person, a drawing room with its furniture, papered walls, lighting and artwork The dialogs What the characters say, how they communicate with each other I love the writing you can read this book just for the writing I am not sure if taking lines out of context will work, but here are a few that reveal tidbits about some of the characters First Matchett, the top housemaid in Thomas London residence In her helmet of stern hair, a few new white threads shown Matchett says to Portia, Listen I don t think I don t have the time to do that About Eddie, she comments trains can wait while some people talk This is spoken with sarcasm.
Anna says, We are home, Thomas Have some ideas about home And she comments that while Thomas may know everything, he knows nothing about the how or the why of the events About Portia, Anna says, Well, heaven help her I don t see why I should Sir Quentin says about Anna, that because he likes her, he overlooks what she does Experience means nothing, until it repeats itself This is a sentence I like The characters are real people, each unique and different What each one says fits perfectly who they are What each one says feels absolutely right One reads this book for character portrayal.
Portia falls in love with Eddie He is a cad He will annoy you to such an extent that at times you will want to slam the book shut to escape him Portia is awkward, overly na ve, thoroughly obtuse, baffled by what others say and do Anna and Thomas are busy, concerned only with themselves Matchett is my favorite character She is the quintessential nursemaid and house servant, that essential person who knows her place, knows everyone s role in the family, is staunch and loving and holds every aspect of the household together Without her, everything would fall apart Everyone realizes her value We meet Sir Quentin, a frequent visitor and well known author Major Butt sends jigsaw puzzles, carnations, is a laughing stock to some, kind and sweet to others We observe class stratification in England, between the wars, in the 1930s I love the ending because it is so real Life as it really is.
The book s humor fits me to a tee I see humor in people talking, but completing failing to understand each other I see humor in how people of different social classes view each other I see humor in how husband and wife communicate I laugh at their miscommunication because it is so darn typical.
Two things could possibly have been improved That Portia is as na ve as she is, is hard to explain Before becoming an orphan, she had traveled around Europe with her parents She must have been exposed to all sorts of people, cultures and circumstances Wouldn t this have the effect of making her mature, given her understanding and knowledge of people s behavior A reader must simply accept that she is as she is, even if this is not logical Secondly, the author goes off on philosophical tangents occasionally Here I found the writing sometimes too florid, too lyrical, too overdone In these sections I found it difficult to make sense of what is being said.
The audiobook is narrated by Katherine Kellgren She uses different intonations for different characters, and all are well done Simple to follow and the speed is perfect The narration I have given four stars I knew nothing of this author, before having read the book It is considered one of Elizabeth Bowen s best I really enjoyed it I cannot know if you will react as I have, but I advise you to give the novel a try.
5 restrained and elegantly cruel stars 10th Favorite read of 2015 Bowen is a major writer.
She is what happened after Bloomsbury.
the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark Victoria GlendinningPortia is sixteen and orphaned and sent to live with her half brother and sister in law in 1930s London Portia is extremely sensitive and extremely average She moves from the bohemian countryside in Switzerland to an extremely elegant, tasteful but cold and aloof home in downtown London.
In her brother s home Portia is slowly maligned, mocked and used by her sister in law and her young lover Portia is defenseless, vulnerable and does not know about the cruelties of society and how due to her status can never measure up.
As I read this book I had a consistent lump in my throat So very sad Sad because Portia due to her gender, socioeconomic limitations and most of all na ve and sweet character would not be able to survive in a world where feminine boredoms and cattishness and male dominance and caddishness would chew her up and spit her out and leave her in a most desperate predicament.
This book is psychologically brilliant and written with interpersonal understanding that few writers are able to achieve.
The Death of the Heart Is Perhaps Elizabeth Bowen S Best Known Book As She Deftly And Delicately Exposes The Cruelty That Lurks Behind The Polished Surfaces Of Conventional Society, Bowen Reveals Herself As A Masterful Novelist Who Combines A Sense Of Humor With A Devastating Gift For Divining Human MotivationsIn This Piercing Story Of Innocence Betrayed Set In The Thirties, The Orphaned Portia Is Stranded In The Sophisticated And Politely Treacherous World Of Her Wealthy Half Brother S Home In London There She Encounters The Attractive, Carefree Cad Eddie To Him, Portia Is At Once Child And Woman, And He Fears Her Gushing Love To Her, Eddie Is The Only Reason To Be Alive But When Eddie Follows Portia To A Sea Side Resort, The Flash Of A Cigarette Lighter In A Darkened Cinema Illuminates A Stunning Romantic Betrayal And Sets In Motion One Of The Most Moving And Desperate Flights Of The Heart In Modern Literature