The Heat Of The Day
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The Heat Of The Day

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  734 ratings  ·  91 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
Published May 14th 1998 by Vintage Classics (first published January 1st 1949)
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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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...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 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...more
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
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)
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
Jul 30, 2009 Ginny rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ginny by: from Imagining London by Anna Quinlen
Two different stories connected by one man, Harrison. Life in London during WW II. Difficult to read. Spoiler Alert. Louie Lewis meets Harrison as they leave the park after a classical music concert. Throughout the story he considers her a pest. She is a factory worker and her husband, Tom, is away, a soldier. She and her friend, Connie, find amusement in scoring the newspapers for any interesting story. The other woman is Stella Rodney. She is a widow and seeing a wounded veteran (he walks with...more
I think the posts on this book are the best I have read since I joined 'goodreads' and for me Chapter Five remains the best prose I have read as an evocation of that dangerous time of fractured lives, random love and smouldering passion amongst the ruins of London at the time of the Blitz. Tense, suffocating and foreboding, now I have a vivid sense of the very essence of my Mother who indeed lived and loved, and mourned, in war torn London.

Readers are drawn to the central theme but the lovers re...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This was a difficult read, yet I'm certain I'll be trying another Elizabeth Bowen. The cover of the edition I read includes: "Imagine a Graham Greene thriller projected through the sensibility of Virginia Woolf."

From the first, the reader is slightly off balance. Something is not quite right but what it is that's not quite right isn't at all clear. Contributing to the off balance feeling is a rather awkward sentence structure. The feather-etched chintz encasing armchairs and sofa advertised its...more
I read this because it was on the 1001 list but also because I'd read this was one of the most important contemporary novels describing London in the second world war along with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and Henry Green's Caught.

I must say I was disappointed. Although a relatively short book it took me nearly a week to finish and I often had to start chapters over again to get even the gist of what was going on.

The book seemed to be in an odd style with very few paragraph separations...more
I may have been inspired to pick this up by its place in Anthony Burgess's Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 - quite happy with the decision and plainly it is right "up my street" in its place in the continuum of 20th century British literature.

Set during World War II, there are blackout curtains and so on but the more violent details of the war are at a distance, not unlike Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude where the characters are located in a boardinghouse just outsid...more
This novel went from being mildly interesting in the first 150 pages to quite compelling by the end. The characters were bewildering at times and I never did feel that they had been fully explained. It was as though there was a sheet of slightly opaque glass between them and me as a reader. While I do not find it necessary to like or care about characters, it seemed a shame here that I never did have much feeling for any of these characters because each one had interesting qualities. The author...more
Heart-breaking & precise, captured in amazing language. Interesting narrative structure. Baffling at times. Loved it. The characters in this novel intrigued me, as did the literary shapes and questions that I'm left with.
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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 The Collected Stories Eva Trout

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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.” 6 likes
“The restaurant was waning, indifferently relaxing its illusion: for the late-comers a private illusion took its place. Their table seemed to stand on their own carpet; they had a sensation of custom, sedateness, of being inside small walls, as though dining at home again after her journey. She told him about her Mount Morris solitary suppers, in the middle of the library, the rim of the tray just not touching the base of the lamp... the fire behind her back softly falling in on its own ash-no it had not been possible to feel lonely among those feeling things.” 1 likes
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