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The Death of the Heart

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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  3,966 ratings  ·  254 reviews
In this piercing story of innocence betrayed set in the '30s, the orphaned Portia is stranded in the sophisticated and politely treacherous world of her wealthy half-brother's home in London. There she encounters the attractive, carefree cad Eddie. To him, Portia is at once child and woman, and he fears her gushing love. To her, Eddie is the only reason to be alive. But wh ...more
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Published August 20th 2010 by Audible, Inc. (first published 1936)
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Mariel
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: virgin with a memory
Recommended to Mariel by: virgin without a memory
This book is one of the reasons why I believe stories are redeeming. Like food, second chances, bringing back to life a deadened heart.

I love this book intensely as if it has some kind of gravitational pull or hold on me that reminds me of it during times of feeling what I cannot put name to. Frame of reference stuff. I found that I love it more as time passes and the life it still lives in my mind takes its place beside some of the most important moments I've had (um or something I've just made
...more
Jenn(ifer)
Aug 01, 2013 Jenn(ifer) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lady Edith Crawley
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: Jean Rhys's ghost


The Death of the Heart -- a pretty melodramatic title, don't you think? I mean, I was expecting a torturous, ruinous love affair. Instead I got a sixteen year old whose auntie read her diary. Still, I enjoyed the story a great deal. The recently orphaned Portia goes to live with her half-brother and his disapproving wife. There she meets a cruel character who wins her heart then tosses her out with the rubbish once she has become too needy. It doesn't take much to win her heart, however. Needy g
...more
Sarah
Portia observes with a young girl's receptiveness. Elizabeth Bowen observes Portia with a woman's cool, discerning eye.

This book demonstrates how a predatory man will tell you, and tell you, and tell you that he's predatory...and how a lonely, young girl will refuse to see it. It demonstrates how a jaded, older woman can resent a young girl's innocence with inexplicable venom. Bowen shows all this and more with beauty, wit, and grace. Her book is about innocence, corrupted. But Bowen, herself, i
...more
Mark
Mar 25, 2013 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like their sadnesses understated
Recommended to Mark by: Eugene
Happy that few of us are aware of the world until we are already in league with it

The story covers a period of some six months in which a newly orphaned 16 year old comes to live with her half brother and his wife. There she keeps a diary, becomes infatuated with another slightly older but still youngish lad, finds he is not quite the boy she had hoped or imagined and gets a bit upset.

Not much more happens then this really and yet i find myself giving it four stars, encouraging you to read it an
...more
knig
I need to solve a mystery: all conspiracy theories welcome. Where exactly is the Kentish seaside town of Seale-on-Sea? It features in three of Bowen’s novels, prominently in ‘The Death of the Heart’ and not at all on Google maps. The only Seal in Kent has these are its coordinates:
http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&a...

With the best will in the world, there is NO way Mrs Heccomb and Portia leave Waikiki House on the shore and trundle onto THIS Seal High Street for Bisureated Magnesia Tablet
...more
Teresa
De vez em quando, vou às "catacumbas" procurar livros que há anos esperam para serem lidos. Por vezes encontro alguns tesouros e zango-me comigo por os ter esquecido; mas não foi o caso de A Morte no Coração, que começou por ser uma leitura agradável mas, pelo tema ou pelo desenvolvimento, acabou por se tornar monótona.
É um romance da época em que as mulheres, de uma certa camada social, viviam para procriar, apajear o marido, orientar a criadagem e organizar festas. Quando ficavam órfãs antes d
...more
Melee
From the back description, I was expecting this to be a major seduction story like, er, well, I can't think of any examples, though they are a dime a dozen. Anyhow, it wasn't; it was about the seduction of the mind: mental, not physical. It was Portia's mind, of course, that was seduced and inevitably, betrayed. (Is that why this is called a psychological novel?)

I rather liked Portia. She wasn't obnoxiously pathetic as I thought she would be. She wasn't when she was away from Eddie, that is. Par
...more
Miriam
Poor Portia. Poor everyone.

In real life I'm rarely this sympathetic to horrible people. Maybe I should be.
Violet wells
There was a time in my youth when I fell in love with Elizabeth Bowen. Her gorgeous high baroque prose style ravished me. You know how sometimes a writer announces herself as a soulmate, settles herself thrillingly into your mind and begins to help you see with more clarity an aesthetic of the world you had only previously sensed? Elizabeth Bowen, following Virginia Woolf, did that for me. I felt we were soul mates. And Death of the Heart was my favourite of her novels.

Essentially it’s a novel
...more
Colleen
I had a difficult time getting started with this downer of a book because Bowen's writing style is dense and, at times, confusing. From time to time she would lapse into sermons or analysis and my eyes would glaze over and I'd lose my focus. But eventually I got into the story and decided it was OK. There's not much of a plot and there's certainly little action or excitement. It's mainly a psychological story. There are lots of characters playing head games with each other. They're primarily wea ...more
Rob
This took me forever to finish. When I started reading it, it actually felt like a breath of fresh air -- I had been reading Angela Carter, William Gass, transhumanist SF, all of this mordant and grotesquely unreal stuff, and here was a work of plain old psychological realism, with people doing people stuff and thinking people thoughts and a careful author with a minimal, unflashy persona to relate it all.

Yet I slowed down around around p. 200, put the book aside for a long time, and after I pic
...more
Jaidee

4.5 "restrained and elegantly cruel" stars


"Bowen is a major writer....She is what happened after Bloomsbury....the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark." -Victoria Glendinning

Portia is sixteen and orphaned and sent to live with her half-brother and sister-in-law in 1930s London. Portia is extremely sensitive and extremely average. She moves from the bohemian countryside in Switzerland to an extremely elegant, tasteful but cold and aloof home in downtown London.

The
...more
Seth
For a review of Elizabeth Bowen’s Death of the Heart, you can’t do much better than Jonathan Yardley’s review published in the Washington Post in 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...
The themes of this novel are betrayal and innocence. As Yardley points out, the author believed that innocence must “be vanquished by experience.”

I would just add an observation about the communication styles displayed in this coming-of-age novel set in British upper and middle-class society prior to World
...more
drea
I should start by saying that I am horrible at writing about books I love, because when I truly love something, I get tongue-tied and bashful and feel like I can only express myself correctly if I am allowed to speak in exclamation points and cartwheels. But even though my heart started up in an illogical panic as soon as I saw the white expanse of the review box, I am trying with this one, gosh darn it, because, oh! It is lovely, and deserves all of the cartwheels.

I forget what made me origina
...more
Lobstergirl
Nov 04, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Julia Turner, Slate Culture Podcast
Shelves: fiction
A book about a 16 year old girl that should be read by adults. Portia Quayne, newly orphaned and very innocent, goes to live with her stolid half-brother and his effortlessly, subtly malicious wife in 1930s London. She falls in love with a 23 year old; keeps a diary; goes to stay with the wife's former governess and her two grown children at the seaside. The novel plods and meanders along densely until about the last 40 pages when things begin to unravel emotionally for Portia and those around h ...more
Tony
THE DEATH OF THE HEART. (1938), Elizabeth Bowen. ****1/2.
This is a beautifully written book about the coming of age of a young girl, Portia. Portia, sixteen-years old when we meet her, is planning to spend a year with her step-brother and his wife in England. She has recently lost her mother and father to illness, and one of the provisions of the will was that she spend time with Thomas Quayne and his wife Anna. Thomas and Portia share the same father, but Portia’s mother was one of her father’s
...more
Cecily
Portia, 16 year old orphan, moves to stay with her adult half-brother and his wife. She's on the cusp of adulthood, but very naïve. Almost everyone is cold and detached. Mostly written as a novel, but with sections of diary and several letters - a contrast that feels a little odd.

Lisa
The Death of the Heart chronicles the fate of a young girl who is left in the care of indifferent, and at times, resentful adults. Portia has lived a stunted life with her mother and father. Having had middle age affair, her father find himself with a pregnant mistress. His wife makes a project of directing his enterance into a new life with his mistress and soon to be baby, Portia. However, this life exacts banishment from England and wandering from one second rate European hotel to another. Th ...more
Callie
By the end I figured out that this book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, since it is about the loss of innocence. You wonder how a sixteen year old could be that innocent, though, even in the 1930s. An orphan, Portia goes to live with Anna and Thomas (her half brother) who aren't very nice to her--actually, Anna can't bear to have her around, mainly because Portia's keeping a diary and since nothing really happens to her (Portia) she keeps it about the movements of Anna and Thomas and it makes ...more
Mary
I loved this book, a young girls coming of age.
Portia comes to live with her step brother and wife in London.
There she meets the cad Eddie, young and naive.
She finds out about love and how hearts are broken .
The best of hers so far.
Beautifully written with an eye for detail of human emotions.
Madeline
Hmmm, well, I can't deny that Bowen is an exquisite writer. She has a kind of snaky prose style, that starts a sentence one place and ends it somewhere else, but not in a way that baffles the reader, only in a way that turns them pleasantly upside-down. There are some wickedly funny and mean one-shots slid in between incredibly serious sentences, sort of like in The Line of Beauty. Bowen's eye for character is excellent - this is the kind of book where a few people bounce off each other until th ...more
John
I've given this audiobook high marks, when I have doubts I would've been able to get through the print version. At first, I wasn't sure about Kellgren's rather plummy accent, until I realized that she was capable of down-shifting to servants, etc. as necessary. As a matter of fact, the housekeeper Matchett was probably my favorite "voice" of all of them.
As far as plot goes, although Thomas and Anna are her brother and sister-in-law it's hard not to think of them more as estranged father and (un
...more
Katie
This book is really more of a character study than plot driven. The writing is almost a cross between Henry James and Edith Wharton.

About a 16 year old orphan, Portia, who comes home to England after living abroad (almost in exile) with her father and his mistress-turned-second-wife. Following his father's wishes, her half brother takes her in (for a year only) against his wife's misgivings. They are rather horrid snobs who hate everything, and never say what they mean. This tendency drives Por
...more
manatee
Well, I finished it.
I think any fan of Downtown Abbey would do well to read this book. For one thing you learn more about the upper classes in England and their language. You realize how much speech has changed since the 1930's. If the characters in Downton Abbey really talked the way these character's do instead of introducing anachronisms like,"he wears many hats" and "learning curve",viewers would be lost.

For example, what does the phrase " He had a rather too mobile mouth" mean?
This was on
...more
Michelle Waters
A beautifully written coming-of-age tale. I picked it up because I thought I might relate to Portia, but mostly because I'd heard good things about Elizabeth Bowen. As it turned out, I mostly wanted to give Portia a good shake--which is exactly what I wish I could do to my sixteen-year-old self, so my original thought was correct.

Bowen's prose was some of the most absorbing I've come across this year. Even after Portia meets and falls for Eddie (the cad!), the first section of the book tends to
...more
Marieke
May 24, 2011 Marieke marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
weird...is it not the same picture as the English translation of Effi Briest
Genia Lukin
A short and surprisingly sweet - for a given sense of sweet - kind of book where nothing much happens, but the nothing much still manages to be engaging just the same.

This is the story of Portia who is given a last name in the book, but ho remembers it? She's about sixteen, naive, used to living in hotels, and completely clueless, even for a sixteen year old. After the death of her parents she is packed off to live with her fraternal brother and his wife in their high-strung, nervous household,
...more
Snort
Elizabeth Bowen, I’m ashamed to say, has only arrived on my radar recently. She swiftly joins my list of “Elizabeth Luminaries” including Taylor, Jenkins, von Arnim and George. On the cover, The New Yorker describes this as “…by far her best book”; this rings alarm bells as I never want to read the best book first, for fear all that comes later fall flat.

This novel somehow represents the life cycle of a flower, and to me, it is just as much about the 30 year old Anna, as it is about the 16 year
...more
Veronica
Jan 30, 2012 Veronica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
This read left me somewhat puzzled. While reading, and upon completing The Death of the Heart, I paused to ponder my overall impression and then, as now, I’m still unsure. At times it seemed a silly tale of a naive orphan and her unwelcoming family and then struck me as brilliant writing with keen insight into various psyches. I’m still not sure…

A young little lassie is suddenly orphaned and sent to live with the half-brother, Thomas Quayne, whom she barely knows and his self-absorbed wife, Anna
...more
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Anyone else read this book? 2 20 Nov 27, 2012 10:39PM  
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
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“A romantic man often feels more uplifted with two women than with one: his love seems to hit the ideal mark somewhere between two different faces.” 82 likes
“Darling, I don't want you; I've got no place for you; I only want what you give. I don't want the whole of anyone.... What you want is the whole of me-isn't it, isn't it?-and the whole of me isn't there for anybody. In that full sense you want me I don't exist.” 78 likes
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