“Why has nobody told me you existed?” — Elizabeth Bowen

From my review of ’A World of Love’, Chapter 5…


Now we come to it. This is the Bowen chapter to end all Bowen chapters. How could I have forgotten its importance and power? It is evidently the reason that I have, publicly, long since dubbed this book the world’s greatest ghost story. But now after my recent rite of passage through much of Bowen and Aickman, I can also safely call it Bowen’s apotheosis of a future Aickman’s novels and stories.

The full context here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2022/01/04/a-world-of-love-by-elizabeth-bowen/

‘A World of Love’ by Elizabeth Bowen, as a very long story or a novella, should be differentiated from her much shorter work entitled ’Love’. However, with the re-reading of this fifth chapter of the novella after many years, I realise that they are both highly Aickmanesque.

Just as Aickman’s ’Wood’ must be differentiated from his ’Into The Wood’!

And Bowen’s ’The Hotel’ from Aickman’s ’The Model’?

Mysterious Kôr Finally Solved?

Major Brutt’s Portia Puzzle match’t . . .

Chapter 8 of THE HEAT OF THE DAY by Elizabeth Bowen
Two girls: Louie Lewis and Connie, the latter an air raid warden during the London Blitz…
They talk of Migratory birds from or to Africa, I think it says.
Darkest Africa as in Rider Haggard’s Kôr…

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#ELBOW as #KÔRner

#ElizabethBowen’s classic short story #MysteriousKÔR

The #circumflex as Bowen’s Symbol of the Elbow? — https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/11/23/wake-the-elbow/

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FROM ‘MYSTERIOUS KÔR’ —

“Next, two wardens coming off duty emerged from their post and crossed the road diagonally, each with an elbow cupped inside a slung-on tin hat.”

“‘Sorry,’ the girls said in unison. Then Pepita laughed soundlessly, making their bed shake, till to stop herself she bit the back of her hand, and this movement made her elbow strike Callie’s cheek. ‘Sorry,’ she had to whisper. No answer: Pepita fingered her elbow and found, yes, it was quite true, it was wet. ‘Look, shut up crying, Callie: what have I done?’”

Full context of my HEAT OF THE DAY review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2021/12/30/the-heat-of-the-day-elizabeth-bowen/

And that of MYSTERIOUS KÔR: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/10/08/moon-city/

The Heat of Our Cold Day

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“Stella’s first view of him, glancing back, had been of someone stepping cranelike over the graves.”

Having just re-read Chapter Four of ’The Heat of the Day’ by Elizabeth Bowen, I feel it may be my favourite ever Bowen chapter, so utterly compelling in its strange-storyish, borderline future Aickman-absurdist, way — and my wonderment at how any author could have conceived such a plot’s strange backstory and still allowed us readily to believe it all!

This is the funeral in the recent past of the man, Cousin Francis: who died ‘suddenly’ and unexpectedly left the Irish property to Roderick. And Francis had travelled from Eire to see his wife Nettie in a mental institution called Wistaria [sic] Lodge (or as Harrison called it, “a nut house”) in England, a place managed by a couple called Tringsby. To follow what I could make further clear here in my real-time review, it would be better for you to read the chapter itself, but just with a few passing comments below…

“…for by now the regulations affecting an Eire subject’s travel to England had been forbiddingly tightened up.”
Like our own days today, alongside, later, in this chapter:
“for ever-severer cuts in the train service so worked out that nobody could depart, on the up or down line,”
“The butcher flaunted unknown joints of purplish meat in the confidence that these could not be bought;” etc. etc.
And Francis died (by heart attack?) in the ‘nut house’ before seeing his wife in her room. But the fact Harrison was also at the funeral, an outsider, like Stella, ostracised by the rest of the family, enables him, as a mysterious stranger to everyone, to start grooming Stella, whose son is to be the beneficiary of the death, or does he do this grooming of her because he left some ‘papers’ with Francis whom he says he knew as a boy, and wants to get them back, and are they anything to do with the espionage machinations we already know about from the near future following this funeral?

At first Stella thinks Harrison must be another of the older mental patients invited to make up numbers, as the corpse could not be shipped back to Eire for a larger funeral because of the travel restrictions that we still suffer today…
“I took for granted you were a lunatic; and I am still not so certain that I was wrong.”

“Stella had on the whole been grateful for the diversion Harrison’s presence caused. For her, the day had not been an easy one; it involved, as well as the train journey to this old-world nucleus of a new dormitory town, the presenting of some sort of face to her once relations-in-law. She had not seen any of them, they had not seen her, since the disastrous end of her short marriage;”

“Cousin Francis’s death from a heart-attack at Wistaria Lodge could hardly have given more trouble: everything had had to be hushed up. It could have endangered the equilibrium of Dr and Mrs Tringsby’s six tranquil uncertified mental patients, of whom Nettie Morris, the dead man’s wife, was one.”

“Mrs Tringsby so far rallied herself as to telephone to the florist’s for a beautiful wreath – which Cousin Nettie must send but not be allowed to see. Mrs Tringsby inscribed the card with:
‘From his loving wife
Till the day break
and the shadows flee away’.”

“His [Francis’s] real object in making the journey to England had been to offer that country his services in the war – his own country’s abstention had been a severe blow, but he had never sat down under a blow yet.”

“Several heads half-turned and at the half-turn paused.”
when Stella entered the church.

“One seemed to have left the churchyard with its alert headstones for a scene of less future, order, and animation.”

“; it was by the merest chance that she had not been left to walk quite alone – one of the Tringsby patients had drawn alongside, but he skipped on and off the pavement and did not speak. Trying to fight off the influence of the street and day and still more of the memory of the grave – on which, it seemed to her, they had so shamefacedly, hurriedly turned their backs – she supported herself by thinking about Robert. When the lawyer bowed at her elbow and said how much he regretted Roderick’s having been unable to come, she explained for the second time that he was in the Army.” (My bold)

“Some ideas, like dandelions in lawns, strike tenaciously: you may pull off the top but the root remains, drives down suckers and may even sprout again. Her uncontrovertible sense of Harrison’s queerness dated, she saw ever afterwards, from that day of the funeral.”

“…he [the lawyer] took her to a recess under the stairs: surrounded by hanging macintoshes, he made known to her the effect of Cousin Francis’s will,…”

The hanging macintoshes reminded of much else in Bowen, including those in her Robert, yes Robert Aickman-absurdist story called LOVE (‘…seeing “what looked like a row of corpses, all hanging along on the one wall. Later, I noticed these were gentlemen’s mackintoshes.’)
Wartime abstentions, notwithstanding. 

“Any salesman would find him as easy to ‘interest’ as he would prove impossible to pin down. He could be written off as a famous waster of time.”

So more backstory regarding Colonel Pole about fireproof roofs et al. Wasting time also being significant to Bowen fiction.

“one would think twice these days about shipping a stiff to Ireland,”

Thus, Colonel Pole tries to groom Stella off Harrison, and he suggests the inherited property a ‘white elephant’ for Roderick….

“One thing he should do at once is take the roof off the house, or they’ll be popping nuns in before you can say knife. Tell him that from me.”

“Harrison’s case, whipped out just not in time, snapped shut again like the jaws of a chagrined crocodile…”
Bowen has many cigarette cases in her fiction. 

Roderick later examines his legacy…
“Why must lawyers always take out commas?”

“One must not be too much influenced by a dead person!”

“Cousin Nettie went off her chump; Ireland refused to fight. But that’s not the same as to say he let himself down.”

Stella made some correction, I forget to whom, probably Harrison, which seems to predict Roderick later wearing Robert’s silk dressing-giwn, with another (significant?) paper left in its pocket… just as Harrison left ‘papers’, he says, with the now deceased Francis…
“‘However, your young Robert – ’
‘– Roderick,’ she impassively corrected.”

“But meanwhile the roof may fall in, or the trees blow down.”

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Full context of above here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/2021/12/30/the-heat-of-the-day-elizabeth-bowen/