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The Death of the Heart is Bowen's most perfectly made book. Portia, an orphan, comes to live in London with her half-brother, Thomas, and his wife, Anna. A child of sin raised in a series of shabby French hotels, Portia is possessed of a kind of terrible innocence. Like Chance the Gardener in pigtails, she literally can't comprehend evil or unkind motives. Unfortunately for her, she falls in with Anna's friend Eddie, who seems to be made entirely of bad motives. Though the plot follows Portia's relationship with Eddie, the novel's real tension lies between Portia and Anna, as the girl comes to grief against the shoals of Anna's glittering, urbane cynicism. But the book transcends the theme of innocence corrupted. As in Graham Greene's The Quiet American, Bowen inverts the formula to show the destructive power of innocence itself:
Innocence so constantly finds itself in a false position that inwardly innocent people learn to be disingenuous.... Incurable strangers to the world, they never cease to exact a heroic happiness. Their singleness, their ruthlessness, their one continuous wish makes them bound to be cruel, and to suffer cruelty. The innocent are so few that two of them seldom meet--and when they do, their victims lie strewn all around.Bowen has a fine eye for such shadings of morality, but finer still is her understanding of the way humans bump up against the material world. Her writing on weather, both emotional and meteorological, compares with the best of Henry James: "One's first day by the sea, one's being feels salt, strong, resilient, and hollow--like a seaweed pod not giving under the heel."
Always a sensitive observer of the way we live, in her lesser books Bowen deals in mind games and then delivers trumped-up, bloody endings. In The Death of the Heart, she keeps all the action between her characters' ears, and comes up with one of the great midcentury psychological novels. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fascinating characters and portait of another time and place. Not a skimmable easy read - don't bother unless you're willing to slow down and savor the beautiful language, subtle... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jane Solie
Very boring - the review I read in a magazine was most misleading -hard to finishPublished 11 months ago by J. Hulett
I have awarded three stars for this book by Elizabeth Bowen, but at the same time I was torn and can quite understand other reviewers being more generous. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Annie
I'd never heard of Elizabeth Bowen when I ran across a mention of her as a favorite novelist of a famous contemporary novels (Martin Amis? Read morePublished 15 months ago by Beth Quinn Barnard
Our library fiction book group read this book. I hadn't read Bowen before and her writing style is to be savored. That's what I liked best about this book. Read morePublished 19 months ago by L. M. Keefer
I enjoyed reading this Bowen novel set in 1930's England. It is actually more of a bildungsroman than a straight novel. Read morePublished 21 months ago by enaashby
There are any number of reviews of The Death of the Heart but I haven't found one yet that looks into the heart of Eddie. Read morePublished 22 months ago by abbeysbooks
It's been several years since I've had trouble putting a book down. If you're not one for modern best sellers and enjoy good dialogue and character development, you will likely... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Jessica L. Perkins
If you love Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, and other British dramas of manners and times in England during the last 100 years or so, you, like me, will gobble up every single... Read morePublished on August 12, 2013 by Joyce A. Tapper