ELIZABETH BOWEN by Victoria Glendinning
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Why a life of Elizabeth Bowen?"" asks Victoria Glendinning in the foreword. Because she ""had an active writing life of half a century. She is what happened after Bloomsbury; she is the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark."" Something of the hesitation and quizzicality of these words pervades the book; in spite of its massive thoroughness, we are left without a clear picture of its subject. Perhaps the reality of Elizabeth Bowen is ungraspable; no doubt she was a person with many quirks in her character. The Irishness of the Anglo-Irish, before the formation of the Republic, was paradoxical in itself. Elizabeth never felt quite at home ha England; this was one of the bonds she held in common with her lifelong lover, a Canadian. But England was her literary base, Bloomsberries included, and publishers. She was the first and best delineator of London in World War II when she served as an Air Warden--the fear, the eeriness of the searchlights, the pervasive dirt generated by bombed and burning buildings, so that secretaries' bright lipstick looked odd on their gray, grimy faces. Her literary contacts were English first (Rose Macaulay). Later she also felt comfortable in the US, even as far west as Wisconsin! Glendinning describes most of Bowen's writings in detail, preferring some of the lesser works to the better-known The Death of the Heart (1938) and The Heat of the Day (1949). . . . But the book is circular, alternating between the life and the fiction. There is, nonetheless, lots of material here to pleas Anglophiles and admirers of Elizabeth Bowen's art.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1977
Publisher: Knopf