LOVE by Elizabeth Bowen

My review of this short story…

“She was not the sort of person you’d see anywhere.”

You must remember this woman with the blue dress sitting on the sudden hotel’s verandah, near the beach with soft sand where the two girls on holiday together were trudging, Edna and the narrator, like any two girls in an Aickman work, and here they did not get on very well together, with the sign saying ‘TEAS’ on the hotel when it didn’t sell teas at all! A bit of a tease I always thought.

“I wouldn’t mind keeping on noticing Edna’s character if she wouldn’t keep on saying she keeps on noticing mine. […] I often said I did wish the sand wasn’t so soft,…”


There had been a choice of two walks towards the surprising appearance of this near deserted hotel, the inland and the sea walks. ‘Awful cows’ keep worrying the narrator, almost interminably, if you keep checking back to see. Just like the cows of Bashan (or bulls disguised) that Aickman used twice in two different stories.

“We looked round but we didn’t see any cows.”

You and me. We tread this story together.
Edna thinks the hotel is a ‘loony-bin.’ And when they meet the man inside after seeing “what looked like a row of corpses, all hanging along on the one wall. Later, I noticed these were gentlemen’s mackintoshes.”
What about you? You noticed the man “rubbed one hand on a table and rubbed some dust off, then stood and watched the dust on his hand.”
His name is Oswald and tells us the backstory of the hotel concerning the Topes, the woman in the blue dress being Miss Tope. That backstory I shall not divulge — well, you should have at least one thing to read anew in this story before hearing it from me first. Tell me what you think when you have read it. It sounds a real financial tarramadiddle to me. A rum do. But “what can you say when you don’t know what you think.”

Ah, I see, looking back earlier, the cows were from the Biblical Bashan that Aickman picked up from Bowen, or was he first? I am the first critic to notice this, I guess, i.e. about the nature of these cows and the comparison with Aickman’s cows. And now they do certainly have horns.

“There were those awful cows, the pack of them, awful black cows, with their horns and everything, coming downhill behind us ever so stealthy ready to spring on us.”

I think it is a story that teases us as much as the teas do. Question is which way shall we go back, you and I?


Also, please compare the two girls in Aickman’s novel: ‘GO BACK At Once.’ (And THE TRAINS)

My reviews of the two Aickman stories, RAISING THE WIND and HAND IN GLOVE, containing these cows or bulls of Bashan, the first one with my already mentioning, I note, Bowen!

3 thoughts on “LOVE by Elizabeth Bowen

  1. ¡Just remembered that Bowen also wrote a story called —


    “Ethel, with the not particularly dainty tray, accordingly entered the back room, this afternoon rendered dark by its outlook into a dripping uphill wood. The aunt, her visage draped in a cobweb shawl, was as usual sitting up in bed.”

    The two girls here, to not so much match those in LOVE as to fit into each other’s envious gloves, are Ethel and Elsie, as orphans overseen by their dotty aunt, but with her dottiness this lady is locked from outside in her back room, with rats in her head, but perhaps real rats that escaped when she arguably passed over! This is a classic Bowen absurdist-horror in her inimitable, accessibly beautiful eccentricity of style, where two girls are coming out and accepting suitors as in Austen, keen to get fashionable gloves unsmelly enough to not deter potential marriageable targets in the military or otherwise. The aunt is in mad cahoots with Ethel with very strange and love-lethal and highly ghostly and ghastly results. This almost out-does Aickman, but these two writers are kindred souls within the same pair of semantic gloves when they write such stories in this vein, thus finger-veined within their part of the literary gestalt. Full of materials, Bowen, and dress stuff. And various hard-to-get keys for various locks, as well as two hands perhaps in the same glove, here untangled and served back at us in our own back rooms.

    ‘Rats in the attic,’ she muttered. ‘I’ve heard them, rats in the attic! Now where’s my tea?’

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