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The Heat of the Day Paperback – July 9, 2002

3.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Imagine a Graham Greene thriller projected through the sensibility of Virginia Woolf." —The Atlantic Monthly

“[Bowen] startles us by sheer originality of mind and boldness of sensibility into seeking our world afresh. . . . Out of the plainest things--the drawing of a curtain--she can make something electric and urgent." --V. S. Pritchett

"Dense as a poem with symbol and suggestion. . . . The work of a writer [of] rich and winning gifts." —Time

"Miss Bowen [has] power to evoke, suggest and explore down oblique and little-frequented avenues the mysterious centers of human conduct." --The New York Times

From the Inside Flap

In The Heat of the Day," Elizabeth Bowen brilliantly recreates the tense and dangerous atmosphere of London during the bombing raids of World War II.
Many people have fled the city, and those who stayed behind find themselves thrown together in an odd intimacy born of crisis. Stella Rodney is one of those who chose to stay. But for her, the sense of impending catastrophe becomes acutely personal when she discovers that her lover, Robert, is suspected of selling secrets to the enemy, and that the man who is following him wants Stella herself as the price of his silence. Caught between these two men, not sure whom to believe, Stella finds her world crumbling as she learns how little we can truly know of those around us.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book was my introduction to the writing of Elizabeth Bowen. Her work has been described as a combination of Jane Austen and Henry James, and I think that sums her writing up pretty accurately.
The Heat of the Day tells the story of Stella Rodney and the people she is connected with, by blood, by love, by fate, or all three. The story is set in London during World War II, with a friend telling her that Robert, her lover, is giving information to the Germans.
The novel describes Stella's experiences in the succeeding months as she visits with her son, home on leave from the war; goes with Robert to his family home in the South of England; and travels to the home in Ireland which her son has inherited from an uncle. Throughout all this Stella is processing the information she received, and eventually acts on it. The outcome is not so much the point of the story as is the description of what Stella feels and remembers about her experiences, in the present and in the past.
Bowen's language is elegant and poetic. Her descriptions of physical events, in nature or in the world of man-made objects, endow these events and objects with a life we know is there yet never notice. Her penetrating observation of the effect of physical objects and events manifests itself in another way as her awareness of the motives and causes of human behavior, the subatomic flickers that speak volumes in human interactions. Each of the characters the reader encounters is developed with astonishing subtlety, complexity and depth. The women and the men alike emerge as full human beings.
In The Heat of the Day, as in many of her other novels, the reader becomes aware of the subtle forces in operation in the most commonplace of human experiences.
I recommend this book highly; it truly combines the depth and elegance of James's prose with the wit and penetrating observation of Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bowen is a writer worth learning about.
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Format: Paperback
One sign of a good book is that it continues to pursue you after you have read the last page and put it down. First of all, I liked the switches of scene from war-torn London to the tranquil but disheartened countryside. We are reminded of the constraints of the blackout, ridiculous absence of identifying place-names on train journeys, confusing to friend and foe alike, and the changing progress and evolution of the war as the years go by. There is a difference between country life in England (Robert's family rattling around in a Victorian hulk they cannot decide what they want to do with), and in neutral Ireland (Roderick's inheritance, Mount Morris, where basic items are in short supply but there will be a sound future for it after the war). It is the story of a woman's gradual acceptance and understanding of an intolerable, heart-breaking situation, and there are some extraordinary vivid scenes that stay with you. The first chapter introduces us to the villain, Harrison, lost in thought while listening to the band in the park; it is not clear why he is so self-absorbed, or why is he so rude to the young woman in the next seat who is only striking up a casual conversation. The second chapter introduces the heroine and sets out the complexities of her ensuing dilemma and Harrison's place in it.
This Harrison is a bit of a riddle and it's hard to be convinced by his sudden obsession with Stella without finding him somewhat abnormal. His scenes with Stella are understated and only when you mull them over do you realize how terrible they are, how shocking are the points he is making, the game he is playing. Before we have met Robert we have no way to assess Stella's reaction; is she going to be persuaded to casually drop him and take up with Harrison?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Imagine a Graham Greene thriller projected through the sensibility of Virginia Woolfe." When I read this Atlantic Monthly blurb on Elizabeth Bowen's "The Heat Of The Day," I thought, this is a book for me. It took me 200 pages before I became involved in the novel. I did not put it down earlier, because I must admit, objectively, that Elizabeth Bowen's writing style is elegant, and at times poetic. I was curious to learn what she wanted to say through the novel's characters and plot. However she does take forever to say something. Her dialogue is often inane, and her unnecessary descriptions slow the storyline unbearably. I am not a reader who requires a book to be plot driven, but Ms. Bowen's meanderings are excessive.
One of the book's reviewers, V.S. Pritchett, writes, "Out of the plainest things - the drawing of a curtain - she can make something electric and urgent." I beg to disagree with Mr. Pritchett, but there is absolutely nothing electric, in this case, about a full page description of a woman drawing the curtains and looking out the window. It is downright tedious. After a long, rather innocuous conversation with her son, our heroine Stella Rodney, puts her cigarette out in the ashtray. After a pause, her son says, "I suppose you'll need the wastebasket." That was the conversation's high point.
The story takes us to wartorn London, about midway through WWII. Stella Rodney, an attractive, intelligent woman in her 40s, is divorced with a son in the Army. Ms. Bowen portrays the tension and eeriness of a city, and its inhabitants, stressed by years of war and bombardment. Stella keeps running into a strange man, Harrison, who first introduces himself to her at her cousin's funeral. The meeting is not accidental.
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