Widely known for her novels, including The Heat of the Day, The House in Paris, and The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen established herself in the front rank of twentieth-century writers equally through her short fiction. This collection includes seventy-nine stories written over the course of four decades, with a new introduction by John Banville.
... beautifully reissued with an effusive introduction by John Banville ... passions, hatreds and heartbreaks are hidden amid the prosaic effects of the drawing room and the boudoir, like a leopard camouflaged by savannah grass. Bowen (1899-1973) was a master of concealment, and though her stories deal in the ordinary and the everyday, they are disturbed by the immense spectral presence of the unspoken.
Bowen’s range is in full view in this collection. There are lopsided romances, social comedy and tales of suspense. 'The Demon Lover' is her most famous ghost story, but 'The Cat Jumps' is equally atmospheric ... The setting for most of these stories – the world Bowen knew – is solidly upper-middle class. (The opulence of this Everyman edition, with its beribboned glamour, seems fitting.) Her characters can be snobbish, and Bowen skewers this mercilessly ... Bowen had genius, but rather than delivering fully on 'the new form', she paved the way, becoming, as her biographer Victoria Glendinning put it, the link between Virginia Woolf and Muriel Spark ... Like Woolf, like Spark, her language is clear but her effects complex, creating shimmering reflections of reality, her world recognisable but just out of reach.
[Bowen's] stories are remarkable in countless ways. For a start, the earliest of them, such as 'Daffodils', are as good as those when she was at the height of her powers ... Bowen’s language is opaline and mesmerising. Overwrought characters play out their part against a backdrop conjured with painterly style, the fall of light through an evening window or shadows against a wall, almost as significant as the storyline itself ... Bowen ruthlessly plumbs psychological depths. This is not done coldly, but with needle-sharp precision. It is tempting to wonder if her happy early childhood were the bedrock from which she was to observe and measure a world that her characters, mean or decent, careless or sensitive, must negotiate all alone.