Aches and Bones

My Bowen and Aickman Summary

It was my recent re-reading of Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘A Day In The Dark’ (my having now re-read all the Bowen stories in a random order), that became the first occasion ELBOW dawned on me as a significant word in her work, my having  instinctively related the meaningfulness of the two elbow incidents in that particular story. I then started noticing  more and more elbows in other stories. I think there are about 80 elbows in the main collected stories book and I haven’t yet counted all those in the Bazaar EUP collection of her stories. For me, these elbows add to the stories’ meanings in different ways. There are 38 elbows in the novel ‘Death of the Heart’, too! And many also in the other novels.

Robert Aickman (1914-1981) and Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), as far as I can see, had significant mutual friends and entered the same sort of social and literary circles. Aickman collaborated with Elizabeth Jane Howard, for example. He was also a big noise in the British Canals society. I think he knew the Sitwells etc. I have no hard evidence that RA and EB met in person, but surely they must have corresponded, as Aickman included a Bowen work in his edited Second Fontana Great Ghost Stories in 1966, and called her, in the introduction, one of the greatest exponents of the ghost story.

As I have done with Bowen, I have recently re-read and reviewed all Aickman’s fiction work….. And I have found that many of Bowen’s stories are in significant synergy with Aickman’s. Incredibly so! I am convinced the influence, if any, was mutual, although by dint of age he was probably first influenced by her. Bowen’s most Aickmanesque stories (and for me most of her stories are Aickmanesque at least to some extent) are Mrs Moysey, Human Habitation, LOVE, The Inherited Clock, Mysterious KÔR, Her Table Spread and, even, perhaps Gone Away! I could extend that list almost indefinitely. Some I may have forgotten.

Many paperback firms and Gollancz and Tartarus Press have published Aickman over the years ostensibly in the Ghost Story, Horror and associated genres, but, for me, Aickman’s work transcends any labels. 


My reviews of these authors HERE and HERE, I hope, successfully convey the themes and stylish elbow-power of their short stories, although I have found relatively fewer actual elbows in Aickman!

Ghost Trains


Raphus Press MMXXI

Stories by Rhys Hughes, Jason Rolfe, Jonathan Wood, Fábio Waki, Colin Insole, Forrest Aguirre, Brian Evenson, Adam Cantwell, Thassio Rodriguez Capranera, Louis Bonafoux.

My previous reviews of Raphus Press HERE.

My reviews of above will appear in the comment stream below…

Elizabeth Bowen’s Novels


  • The Hotel (1927)
  • The Last September (1929)
  • Friends and Relations (1931)
  • To the North (1932)
  • The House in Paris (1935)
  • The Death of the Heart (1938)
  • The Heat of the Day (1949)
  • A World of Love (1955)
  • The Little Girls (1964)
  • Eva Trout (1968)

My gestalt real-time review of these novels will be linked in the comment stream below…

My detailed reviews of Elizabeth Bowen’s 108 short stories are linked from here:


I am pleased to report that Elizabeth Bowen’s first novel THE HOTEL contained 19 separate references to elbows.

(The elbow counts of all Bowen novels shown below.)


  • The Hotel (1927) 19
  • The Last September (1929) 14
  • Friends and Relations (1931) 7
  • To the North (1932) 15
  • The House in Paris (1935) 15
  • The Death of the Heart (1938) 38
  • The Heat of the Day (1949) 29
  • A World of Love (1955) 11
  • The Little Girls (1964) 15
  • Eva Trout (1968) 10

The elbow counts include elbow, elbows and one elbowing!

All my Bowen story reviews:

Wake the Elbow:

The Pink Biscuit by Elizabeth Bowen

“…in profile at her writing- table in the sunshine, by a vase of daffodils.”

This is a rare classic, and all Boweneers should read it. Not only for the believable and emotionally complex characterisation of young naive Sibella, staying with her aunt of aunts at Folkestone, because she had nowhere else available during the school holidays. She said she did not like men, but she needs to deal with a young man in a shop….
But also it needs to be read for … her attempting ‘retrieval of sin’, after almost accidentally pinching a single pink biscuit from a store, when sent shopping after her aunt’s servant, who usually did the shopping, went off sick – all magnificently told. But also, again, for the beautifully described minutiae of the store itself. The split pig, the nature of bacon slicing, the biscuits themselves and much more…
…and her satchel on the crook of her arm and her arm later ‘crocked’ (sic) around a pine tree trunk, almost a metaphor for stigmatic punishment, without even mentioning the word ‘elbow’! ‘Cheek pressed to the scaly bark.’ (Note the pine trees in ‘Among the Lilies’ that I reviewed recently.)
Yet she left her burden of goods behind, only to be given it back again — this arguably being symbol for the onset of paradoxical interminability in the passage through life’s guilt, blame, shame and, above all, hope.
The ‘needle point’ of such emotions is matchlessly felt by this classic work of literature, so shamefully unread, I guess.


My now complete review of all Bowen stories:

My Huge Review of Elizabeth Bowen Stories (19)


My reviews of EB stories so far, in alphabetical order:

My previous reviews of general older, classic books: — particularly the multi-reviews of William Trevor, Robert Aickman, Katherine Mansfield and Vladimir Nabokov.

“She never had had illusions: the illusion was all.” — EB in Green Holly 


Hell’s Elbow

And now a  shoe was tucked beneath either armpit…

JUST IMAGINE . . .’ by Elizabeth Bowen

This is a truly scary horror story that needs a bigger audience, a story that was not even re-published in Bowens’s Collected Stories. With elbows, and beyond elbows. One about Noel and Nancy, brought up as non-sibling children in the same family, she having come from Argentine. Then they were separated, now both with their own prospective spouses, when they meet again. As children, he had delighted in scaring her, and now she gets her own back? Not exactly… I can only quote below from the text to give you those childhood fears again…alongside such well-characterised individuals (he when younger ”going alone to the Zoo, walking all the night or exploring the bus-routes of London”, she “a rather curd-faced child, with hair skinned back into a pigtail that her eyes seemed stretched open wider  than ever”) each of them hoping for their own future dreams but inevitably mining the love and hate of their past. Dared to scare and be scared again…. And what or who the shadowy third?

“…a clammy-faced Thing on the top landing that reached out for them through the banisters as they went up.”

“He thought of the nursery fire for ever put out, and of how one went on through the world growing colder and colder.”

“In an air blue and semi-opaque with cigarette smoke, and sharp with geranium scent, two clocks followed each other…”

“‘Fear’, said Nancy. ‘I didn’t mind pain. “Just imagine,” you used to say; you had frogging hands and queer pale eyes.’”

“The tick of the two clocks, never quite synchronising, pattering after each other, maddened him. Since the night fears of his childhood he had never felt so menaced.”

“We’re not alone! Cover your face and don’t look, my dear, for we’re . . . we’re Not Quite Alone . . . A-ah! — Oh, my God, IT’S there…”

“There began, interrupted by silences, the sound of something slithering, dragging itself along the wall.”

“This horror had taken life from himself, had been born of his mind and was creeping about the room.”


Till we reach the explicitly unfathomed abyss to match an earlier ‘futureless dream’…
Via Hell’s Elbow, I wonder…

“Nancy turned up a lamp at her elbow, a lamp in painted shade that cast arabesques and eyes over the wall.”

“…he ran on alone to the edge of the Pit. Within him there was an absolute silence, a blank across which shadows doubtfully shivered and fled.  Nancy laughed and turned out the lamp at her elbow…”

“Kneeling up, scarcely breathing, an arm still around Nancy, Noel felt along the back of her chair for the lamp at her other elbow………”


All my Bowen reviews: