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The Heat Of The Day

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  970 ratings  ·  112 reviews
It is wartime London, and the carelessness of people with no future flows through the evening air. Stella discovers that her lover Robert is suspected of selling information to the enemy. Harrison, the British intelligence agent on his trail, wants to bargain, the price for his silence being Stella herself. Caught between two men and unsure who she can trust, the flimsy st ...more
Paperback, 330 pages
Published May 14th 1998 by Vintage Classics (first published 1948)
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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”Overhead, an enemy plane had been dragging, drumming slowly round in the pool of night, drawing up bursts of gunfire--nosing, pausing, turning, fascinated to the point for its intent. The barrage banged, coughed, retched; in here the lights in the mirrors rocked. Now down a shaft of anticipating silence the bomb swung whistling. With the shock of detonation, still to be heard, four walls of in here yawped in then bellied out; bottles danced on glass; a distortion ran through the view. The deton ...more
Violet wells
"Out of mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last of sunset and first note of the siren the darkening glassy tenseness of evening was drawn fine. From the moment of waking you tasted the sweet autumn not less because of an acridity on the tongue and nostrils; and as the singed dust settled and smoke diluted you felt more and more called upon to observe the daytime as a pure and curious holiday from fear."

Ostensibly The Heat of
Bowen plunges us into the midst of intrigue, suspicion, awkward and uncomfortable relationships and conversations, furtiveness, as she reveals London in 1942, people dislocated by the war, mystery abounding, suggestions of espionage and the tensions of unwelcome demands and divided loyalties. Her descriptions of place and ambiance are acute, and her psychological insights and portrayals are subtle, emotions washing across personalities like ripples over water, nuanced and fascinating.

By the end
Diane D.
This book had the potential to be a 4 star read for me, yet I found the writing SO laborious and detailed, that I was wavering between 2 and 3 stars. To be totally honest, 2 stars won out.

That said, the premise of the story is wonderful on many layers. We have love, loss, intense wartime drama set in London in the 1940's, mystery, intrigue, espionage, and about a dozen very interesting and different characters. The beginning pages grabbed me immediately as the author wrote of an outdoor concert
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I haven't read that book which says in its very title that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. From somewhere, however, I had learned its basic premise: that the differences between men and women are so vast that it would seem that they are creatures from different planets.

I am a married man and it is not infrequent that my wife would, say, raise a howl of violent exasperation about something I did which I find completely normal and ordinary. On the other hand, I never cease to wonder ho
I haven't read anything by Bowen before, and I picked this up for two reasons. The first is that I read some criticism by A.S. Byattabout it, and the second, someone put it in the free book pile at work. (I love those piles).

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I can see why Byatt enjoyed it. Bowen is very similar to Byatt and Iris Murdoch in style. Her prose is deep; you have to penetrate it. You need scuba gear in away. This makes the prose rewarding.

But the book is also maddening because
I found this a difficult but engrossing book. I read in snatched dribs and drabs throughout the day, and it was so hard to dip into and then out of the book that I ended up reading it only at night, when I could sink deeply into it. The story of a love affair in London during World War II, Bowen's narrative is full of slow, contemplative passages rich with sensuous, vivid detail about the world about us, touching on all the senses, like this passage from the first chapter:

"In this state, drugged
Wartime London, hints of espionage and with lots of references to spirits and ghosts, albeit most often in a metaphorical sense. Buildings are also very significant: Stella's flat (which she changes when her life changes), Wistaria Lodge (odd care home), Mount Morris (Irish inheritance), Holme Dene (Robert's family home - to sell or not). Quite episodic: some chapters and characters quite separate from the main narrative, but Bowen's wonderful use of language shines though.
Like most of the reviewers here, I found the book densely written and perplexing. The characters are as complex and believable as any in literature. We don't know enough about them to fully grasp their motivations, even after they try to explain themselves through dialogue with another character. Neither the reader nor the other character in such a scene will get it, though.

My favorite characters, Stella and Robert, play at the edges of each other and exist in superficial relationship, perfect f
This is the first Elizabeth Bowen I have read for many many years. I have a memory of having read ‘The Death of the Heart’ and recently decided I may have read A House in Paris – as I realised after seeing another review that the novel sounded very familiar to me. However I have no actual memory of actually reading either book.
I wasn’t sure how I would get along with this book as I know some people consider Elizabeth Bowen to be hard work. I certainly don’t think she is easy – and this book was
This is my second Elizabeth Bowen, and I really find myself liking her books very much.

In this one, the thing I found most striking and successful was the way certain minor characters were portrayed. You find you know quite a lot about them, especially their faults and oddities, not through direct descritpion, but through their own words, and even this very quickly and economically. I'm thinking of Louie's friend Connie, of cousin Nettie, and particularly Richard's mother and sister. There is on
Justin Evans
One of the best books I've read this year, hands down. It's beautifully structured, and gorgeously written- not an easy read by any means, but not quite a Jamesian labyrinth either. I can't really describe it, but the book is wise, and every other good adjective you can think of. "There was nobody to admire: there *was* no alternative. No unextinguished watch-light remained, after all, burning in any window, however far away. In hopes of what, then, was one led on, led on? How long, looking back ...more
Written with tremendous grace this densely atmospheric mystery novel quietly shows the hard to articulate human motivations for betrayal, both big and slight, among those in love. The narrative is propelled emotionally, and the characters, largely stoic, deal with each other in ways which give an understanding to their immediate, but historical, situation - that of London during World War 2, in the year of so before the Blitz when the fear of bombing and land invasion were terrible. There are so ...more
This is a book very much of it's time and as such I found the language dense and at times difficult to penetrate. Bowen painted a picture of a tense, war time London where everyone mistrusted everyone else. The conversations were fractured and oblique and I found the characters difficult to invest emotionally in. Some of her descriptive prose at times was quite beautiful and touching but at other times I struggled to understand what was happening and if anything was true. It has left me with lot ...more
Adapted by Tristram Powell and Honor Borwick.

Elizabeth Bowen's wartime novel of betrayal adapted from a screenplay by Harold Pinter. Part love story, part spy thriller, in which the beautiful Stella's allegiances are tested.

(view spoiler)
Alex Sarll
A story of love and treason in wartime London, which as such might be expected to recall Greeneland - but in its minute attention to sordid detail, mingled with an equal fascination for the play of consciousness, to me it felt more like the midpoint between Patrick Hamilton and Virginia Woolf. There are even lambent passages singing the hint of something transcendent, usually found in the natural world, which gave me glimmers of Arthur Machen (though I suspect he would have hated Bowen, much as ...more
I feel like I have personally triumphed over this book. Oh Bowen, when you are good, you are so very good, but when you are bad, you are awful.
This was my third Elizabeth Bowen venture and I quite enjoyed it. You can read my review of this one here:
Rachel Hirstwood
I have been really looking forward to reading this, it's been on my amazon wish list for 6 months, and finally, I have got around to it. I think it was a review by AS Byatt that got my interest peaked, and that should have been a clue. Although I like Byatt's novels, they can be a bit dense, and so did this novel prove. I'm sure the grammar was perfect, but it made heavy weather of some of the sentences, so that I found myself having to re-read whole pages because I'd lost the plot.

Buried deep i
One of the most atmospheric novels I have read, conveying the claustrophobic terror of living in wartime London. Stella and Robert are having an affair, but Robert is accused of selling secrets to the Nazis. The price for his freedom is for Stella to give herself to his accuser. Alongside this central moral conundrum, we are invited to think of other issues of morality: Louie, a lonely Kentish lass who picks up strangers for company while her husband is serving overseas, and Stella's son Roderic ...more
A very unusual and original story of London during the war, written by the incomparable Bowen. Her detailed prose and her highly polished style work wonders with this suffocating tale that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the British city during the Blitz. It's also a spy story reduced to its core: human beings trapped by their contradictory passions. All the ingredients are there (danger, lust, betrayal, suspicion, love) yet Bowen uses them in a personal way, accenting mostly the psychologi ...more
The Heat of the Day is set mostly in wartime London and spans a two year period between September 1942 and September 1944. Elizabeth Bowen lived through those two harrowing London years and it shows – as this, as well as being a brilliant novel, could also serve as a historical document. First thing you have to accustom yourself to is Bowen’s lyrical mannered prose style which here begins to assume the contorted style bristling with inversions, double negatives, ellipses and omissions it increas ...more
Gabrielle Goldsmith
I picked this novel up as, after reading and identifying so much with 'The Death of the Heart' I knew I would be in for a treat of a read with anything by Ms Bowen. I also was attracted by the Los Angeles Times' correspondent rating it as " probably the most intelligent noir ever written...". I have recently realised that my own stumbling efforts at a novel are driven by the wish to write an intelligent noir, albeit one set our current times, when suspicion is a different brew.

What can I say abo
I feel like I did this book injustice by reading it in bits and pieces. Although I found it a good book and enjoyed reading it, I think it would have been better if I read it in one or two sittings. Mostly because each time I started to read, it took some time to get into the story and the first pages required all my concentration to get through. However, once I got used to the writing style and allowed the story to lead me, the stream of words took me along pages and pages of beautiful prose.

This is not as good as Bowen's earlier novel, The Death of the Heart, which is a masterpiece. But it has many of the same strengths: finely wrought prose, well developed characters (mostly), and probing explorations into complex relationships and historical dilemmas. It depicts WWII London as a place where love, family life, and daily routines are being torn apart by constant bombing and war rationing. News from the front is erratic and hard to place in the proper context. The main character, St ...more
Mark Joyce
Atmospheric and emotionally charged but bloody hard going in places. The prose is highly (for my taste over) wrought and some of the dialogue is unconvincing, particularly for the relatively under-developed, plucky working class character, some of whose lines are almost Dick van Dyke-esque.

The pacing is a challenge, with long stretches of not much happening followed by a sudden, somewhat half-arsed denouement. However, these flaws are forgivable because the book oozes authenticity as an insight
Beatrice Gormley
A reviewer for The Atlantic described The Heat of the Day as a suspense novel Graham Greene might have written, filtered through the sensibility of Virginia Woolf. The critic Wendy Lesser chose The Heat of the Day as one of her “Hundred Books to Read for Pleasure.” For me, one of the distinct pleasures of this book by Elizabeth Bowen was the vivid sense of being in London during World War II. Each of the sharply drawn characters reacts in his or her own way (none of them normal) to the dislocati ...more
Carey Combe
Unexpectedly good, great story, great characterisation and moving.
In The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen, while I enjoyed the book, as I read it I searched for the humor, but I must admit that much of the humor in it was too deep for me to fully comprehend. I can only speculate on what I think my be considered Bowen’s unique form of humor.

In Barreca’s book she says about Bowen’s humor, “In contrast to her relentless refusal to supply the usual feminine applause for the important man or woman, the poor soul, and the good Samaritan, she illuminates instead th
Lynda Rucker
This is the third book I've read by Bowen; despite finding her somewhat distant and impenetrable, her prose is so beautifully crafted I keep going back to her. But until this book I would have said I admired rather than really liked her novels. (I have read a little of her short fiction and up to now, have liked it much better.) Anyway, this book set during the London Blitz really clicked for me in a way that the previous ones didn't quite so much--with real and heartbreaking characters and situ ...more
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Oh God 2 4 Feb 21, 2015 07:17AM  
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
More about Elizabeth Bowen...
The Death of the Heart The Last September The House in Paris Eva Trout To the North

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“She had one of those charming faces which, according to the angle from which you see them, look either melancholy or impertinent. Her eyes were grey; her trick of narrowing them made her seem to reflect, the greater part of the time, in the dusk of her second thoughts. With that mood, that touch of arriere pensee, went an uncertain, speaking set of lips.” 7 likes
“Habit, of which passion must be wary, may all the same be the sweetest part of love.” 1 likes
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