Review: Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Death of the Heart”

by writereaderly

This book reminded me very strongly of Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star, in that it traces the aborted revelation of a young girl’s empty self. Very strongly. Bowen’s novel is carefully crafted, very carefully framed, evidently she’s a craftswoman, but ultimately oh so bleak: “an anatomisation of human emptinesses” is the best précis I can devise. Heroine Portia is formlessness, pseudo-boyfriend Eddie is vicious flightiness, sister-in-law Anna is bourgeois apathy, brother Thomas is urbane disregard… Etc. Bowen’s dialogue is sharp (I think it’s meant to be funny, but I missed that) and her social acuity is impressive, but I can’t say I enjoyed this book. It’s never pleasurable to be taken this close to the void.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading: Several reads, with moderate interest by the end
Where it went: KAM
Reminds me of: The Hour of the Star
Who I’d recommend it to: Readers interested in the niceties of character dissection
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; Picturing Canada by Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman (just the images)

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