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Elizabeth Bowen (1) (1899–1973)

Author of The Death of the Heart

For other authors named Elizabeth Bowen, see the disambiguation page.

72+ Works 7,962 Members 167 Reviews 16 Favorited

About the Author

Elizabeth Bowen, distinguished Anglo-Irish novelist, was born in Dublin in 1899, traveled extensively, lived in London, and inherited the family estate-Bowen's Court, in County Cork. Her account of the house, Bowen's Court (1942), with a detailed fictionalized history of the family in Ireland show more through three centuries, has charm, warmth, and insight. Seven Winters is a fragment of autobiography published in England in 1942. The "Afterthoughts" of the original edition are critical essays in which she discusses and analyzes, among others, such literary figures as Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Anthony Trollope, and Eudora Welty. Bowen's stories, mostly about people of the British upper middle class, portray relationships that are never simple, except, perhaps, on the surface. Her concern with time and memory is a major theme. Beautifully and delicately written, her stories, with their oblique psychological revelations, are symbolic, subtle, and terrifying. A Time in Rome (1960) is her brilliant evocation of that city and its layered past. In 1948, Bowen was made a Commander of the British Empire. Bowen died in 1973. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Elizabeth Bowen

The Death of the Heart (1938) 1,650 copies
The Heat of the Day (1948) 1,074 copies
The Last September (1929) 983 copies
The House in Paris (1935) 875 copies
Eva Trout (1968) 433 copies
To the North (1932) 387 copies
The Little Girls (1964) 368 copies
A World of Love (1955) 328 copies
The Hotel (1927) 216 copies
Friends And Relations (1931) 167 copies
A Time in Rome (1960) 154 copies
Bowen's Court (1942) 90 copies
English Novelists (1942) 45 copies
The Shelbourne (1951) 41 copies
Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (1959) 27 copies
Collected impressions (1950) 24 copies
Pictures and conversations (1974) 22 copies
Seven Winters (1942) 22 copies
Look at All Those Roses (1941) 21 copies
Encounters : early stories (1923) 20 copies
34 Short Stories (1957) — Editor — 14 copies
The Cat Jumps (1949) 11 copies
Early Stories (1950) 10 copies
Afterthought (1962) 9 copies
Emmeline (2008) 8 copies
Selected Stories (1946) 6 copies
Joining Charles (1929) 5 copies
The Good Tiger (1965) 5 copies
A Day in the Dark (1966) 4 copies
Erzählungen (2000) 4 copies
Mysterious Kor 3 copies
Pink May 1 copy
Maria 1 copy
Reduced 1 copy
anything 1 copy

Associated Works

Orlando: A Biography (1928) — Afterword, some editions — 10,323 copies
Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh (1864) — Introduction, some editions — 1,382 copies
Frost in May (1933) — Introduction, some editions — 909 copies
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (1986) — Contributor — 537 copies
The Oxford Book of Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 504 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (1989) — Contributor — 422 copies
Great Irish Tales of Horror: A Treasury of Fear (1995) — Contributor — 313 copies
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 286 copies
A World of Great Stories (1947) — Contributor — 253 copies
Christmas Stories (2007) 244 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women (1995) — Contributor — 164 copies
Stories by Katherine Mansfield (1956) — Editor; Introduction — 152 copies
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Contributor — 152 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) — Contributor — 150 copies
The Virago Book of Ghost Stories (2006) — Contributor — 138 copies
The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories (2007) — Contributor — 130 copies
The Penguin Book of Irish Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 128 copies
Classic Irish Short Stories (1957) 115 copies
The Penguin Book of Women's Humour (1996) — Contributor — 114 copies
The Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories (1990) — Contributor — 99 copies
Great Irish Detective Stories (1993) — Contributor — 88 copies
The Brave Little Goat of Monsieur Seguin (1866) — Contributor — 78 copies
65 Great Spine Chillers (1988) — Contributor — 75 copies
The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories (1996) — Contributor — 70 copies
Nightshade: 20th Century Ghost Stories (1999) — Contributor — 64 copies
Love Stories (1983) — Contributor — 60 copies
Chill Tidings: Dark Tales of the Christmas Season (2020) — Contributor — 60 copies
The Third Ghost Book (1955) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers (2015) — Contributor — 56 copies
The Second Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1966) — Contributor — 55 copies
Revenge: Short Stories by Women Writers (1986) — Contributor — 49 copies
The Norton Book Of Ghost Stories (1994) — Contributor — 49 copies
The House of the Nightmare and Other Eerie Tales (1750) — Contributor; Author, some editions — 46 copies
An Omnibus of 20th Century Ghost Stories (1989) — Contributor — 45 copies
Into the London Fog: Eerie Tales from the Weird City (2020) — Contributor — 45 copies
The Second Ghost Book (1952) — Introduction; Contributor — 45 copies
Realms of Darkness (1985) — Contributor — 43 copies
Modern Irish Short Stories (1957) — Contributor — 40 copies
The Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories (1966) — Contributor — 38 copies
The Haunted Library: Classic Ghost Stories (2016) — Contributor — 38 copies
The Anchor Book of New Irish Writing (2000) — Contributor — 38 copies
Great Irish Stories of the Supernatural (1992) — Contributor — 38 copies
Modern English Short Stories (1939) — Contributor — 34 copies
The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women (1995) — Contributor — 32 copies
Spirits of Christmas (1989) — Contributor — 31 copies
The Old School: Essays by Divers Hands (1934) — Contributor — 29 copies
Night Shadows: Twentieth-Century Stories of the Uncanny (2001) — Contributor — 28 copies
Stories for the Dead of Night (1957) — Contributor — 28 copies
The Stories of William Sansom (1963) — Introduction, some editions — 26 copies
London Tales of Terror (1972) — Contributor — 26 copies
Tomato Cain and other stories (1949) — Introduction — 18 copies
Family: Stories from the Interior (1987) — Contributor — 16 copies
England forteller : britiske og irske noveller (1970) — Contributor — 9 copies
The Black Cap: New Stories of Murder and Mystery (1928) — Contributor — 9 copies
Mysterious, Menacing and Macabre (1981) — Contributor — 8 copies
British and American Essays, 1905-1956 (1959) — Contributor — 7 copies
Shudders (1929) — Contributor — 7 copies
Ellery Queen’s Eleven Deadly Sins (1991) — Contributor — 6 copies
When Churchyards Yawn (1963) — Contributor — 6 copies
The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: 2nd Series (1983) — Contributor — 5 copies
Ghosts and Ghastlies (1976) — Contributor — 5 copies
Ghosts in Country Houses (1981) — Contributor — 5 copies
Twenty-Three Modern Stories (1963) — Contributor — 4 copies
The Best British Short Stories of 1933 — Contributor, some editions — 2 copies
Horizon 21 (September 1941) — Contributor — 2 copies
Stories of horror and suspense : an anthology (1977) — Contributor — 2 copies
Stories of the Macabre (1976) — Contributor — 1 copy
Uncle Silas ... With an introduction by Elizabeth Bowen — Introduction, some editions — 1 copy


1001 (167) 1001 books (164) 1001 books you must read before you die (86) 19th century (91) 20th century (512) anthology (558) biography (104) British (345) British fiction (96) British literature (322) classic (235) classics (296) England (218) English (154) English literature (300) fantasy (263) feminism (88) fiction (3,505) gender (227) ghost stories (144) ghosts (114) gothic (139) historical fiction (179) horror (405) Ireland (206) Irish (230) Irish literature (189) literature (504) London (85) modernism (200) mystery (79) novel (722) read (222) short stories (1,035) to-read (1,287) UK (87) unread (191) Virago (91) Virginia Woolf (106) women (134)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Bowen, Elizabeth
Legal name
Cameron, Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen
Other names
Bowen, Bitha
Bowen, Elizabeth
Date of death
Burial location
St Colman's Church, Farahy, County Cork, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland
Place of death
London, England, UK
Places of residence
Dublin, Ireland
Farahy, Ireland
Hythe, England, UK
Regent's Park, London, England, UK
Headington, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Downe House School, Kent, England, UK
short story writer
Ritchie, Charles (lover)
Awards and honors
Order of the British Empire (Commander, 1948)
Companion of Literature (1965)
Doctor of Letters, Trinity College, Dublin
Doctor of Letters, Oxford University (1956)
Lacy Martin Donnelly Fellow (1956)
Short biography
Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899, the only child of an Irish lawyer and landowner. Her book Bowen's Court (1942) is the history of her family and their house in County Cork. Throughout her life, she divided her time between London and Bowen's Court, which she inherited. She had friends among the Bloomsbury Group, and was close to Rose Macaulay, who helped her find a publisher for her first book, a collection of short stories called Encounters (1923). During World War II, Elizabeth Bowen lived in London and worked for the British Ministry of Information. She received acclaim for her novels and short story collections, was awarded the CBE (Companion of the Order of the British Empire) in 1948, and was made a Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature in 1965. She died in 1973.



"Meetings that do not come off keep a character of their own."

The first word people have used to describe for me Elizabeth Bowen's writing is often "difficult". I now see they are wrong. Where some minds find difficulty, those of us with clearer vision see rare intelligence. Bowen was a younger member of the Bloomsbury Group, often defined as a generational link between Virginia Woolf and Muriel Spark. She toys with the fragmented modernism of the former, while sinking her teeth into the detached British realism of the latter. It is the frisson of this combination that gives her work its unique voice.

The House in Paris takes place over one day, as 11-year-old Henrietta and 9-year-old Leopold pass through the home of Miss Naomi Fisher and her ailing mother. The children do not know each other; the orphaned Henrietta is en route to visit her grandmother, and needs a place to stop, while Leopold is to meet his mother for the first time today, after having been raised by family friends in Italy. Both children's unusual circumstances are joined by their respective mothers' friendships with Miss Fisher. In the repressive atmosphere of the house, secrets unfold amongst these four unnerved characters and their ultimate guest.

Bowen's style is perhaps best described as "detached", somewhere on that mid-20th century spectrum of writers whom I adore so, whose characters are financially "comfortable" but often on a downward trajectory, and whose speech - clipped yet romantic - invites the reader to fill in the silences. If you have tasted the sweet delights of Murdoch and Durrell, of Penelope Fitzgerald and Barbara Pym, seek comfort here. If your preferences lean in the other direction, Bowen may not be for you! Says one of the characters: "I cannot live in a love affair, I am busy and grasping. I am not English; you know I am nervous the whole time. I could not endure being conscious of anyone. Naomi is like furniture or the dark. I should pity myself if I did not marry her."

"The Present" takes up about half of this short novel, but the meat of Bowen's story is in the central section, "The Past". The true details of Naomi Fisher's youth, of Leopold's provenance, of Madame Fisher in her prime, are interspersed in the details of a love affair as delicate as a hothouse flower. Bowen tears at the fragile stitches of these characters, revealing flesh that is bruised and sore. The content of the book - and, in truth, sometimes its individual moments - could be found in a lesser soft romance novel of the period. But Bowen's prose refuses to be cowed. She slips between tenses, surprises us with changes in narrative voice and tone, and generally keeps the atmosphere on the thinnest ice.

Unsettling, but beautiful.
… (more)
therebelprince | 17 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
Eighteen short stories by
PendleHillLibrary | 1 other review | Oct 13, 2023 |
Couldn't read more than about 10 pages of this. Some of the most atrocious writing I've ever read in my life.
lschiff | 25 other reviews | Sep 24, 2023 |
This book is beautifully written and a has very simple plot. It is more of characterization of a family living in a dilapidated estate in Ireland than a story. Descriptions of the land and its people are wonderfully done. Unfortunately, it was sometimes difficult to read through due to too many double negatives. Enjoyable but doesn't stand out.
Kimberlyhi | 6 other reviews | Apr 15, 2023 |



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