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To the North

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  27 reviews
A young woman’s secret love affair leads to a violent and tragic act in one of Elizabeth Bowen’s most acclaimed novels. To the North centers on two young women in 1920s London, the recently widowed Cecilia Summers and her late husband's sister, Emmeline. Drawn to each other in the wake of their loss, the two set up house together and gradually become more entwined than the ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 11th 2006 by Anchor (first published 1932)
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(showing 1-30 of 920)
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Lise Petrauskas
Dammit! I wanted to give this book five stars! Maybe I wanted something unreasonable, but I'm irritated anyway because I didn't get it. I wanted (view spoiler)

I feel the way I sometimes do after having read a short story: a little cheated, left hanging, wondering if that particular end is necessary to communicate the premise of sto
...more
kasia
I probably would have given it 5 stars if it weren't for the ending, which I hated. Was it a cliché at the time, I wonder, or is she part of the process of making it one? I don't know, but I don't like it.

To the North is essentially a pair of love stories; that of two women, Emmeline and Cecilia, and their respective partners. The ups and downs of their interactions are not at all like those of typical love stories, and it's ultimately very hard to say whether the phenomenon described is love,
...more
Kate
Letter (in this novel) from a man to a woman who loves him. They probably have been sexually intimate, but their language is so decorous and vague that their relationship seems to be distant even when they have slipped off to Paris together for a secret weekend. On the aeroplane, he writes her a note and HANDS IT to her:

"Or aren't you? These two days must be intolerable or perfect. You must know what I want; all I want. If I COULD marry, it would be you. I don't know if you know what this means.
...more
Sarah

Elizabeth Bowen, an author in the genre of Virginia Wolfe and Dorothy Whipple, writes about English women’s lives in the 30’s and 40’s. In To the North we meet Cecelia, a young widow, and her younger, unmarried sister-in-law, Emmeline, who are living in London. Cecelia is a traditional woman heading towards another marriage but her restlessness and lack of direction make one question her purpose. Emmeline who runs a travel agency is more modern, but she takes risks that she may not be able to ha
...more
Justin Evans
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Taylor
Not my favorite--The Death of the Heart is still the best I've read, but I have several more to go. I love that Elizabeth Bowen writes awful, untrustworthy men so well, and I appreciate the quality of menace that all of the relationships in this book have--but the fact of the matter is that I didn't like even the people I think I was supposed to like, which, with this kind of story, detracted from my ability to be fully engrossed. Still a worthwhile read, though. Markie is a true cad of the high ...more
Elisabeth Watson
As I work my way through Bowen's oeuvre as slowly as possible (so as not to be done) TO THE NORTH finds an interesting place in my mind. More melodramatic than the "quiet, modern desolation" of some of her others I've read, I found myself discovering new things about her. For one: when Bowen puts the same sort of descriptive techniques to nature that she puts to people (both individual and collective), things ring a little false--or at least a little awkward. I don't know what this is about, but ...more
Lisa Houlihan
For all that the dialog throughout was so stultifyingly alien, this ended very well -- perhaps because the last pages were in narrative. The manner in which these people converse, these British, 1920s, wealthy, painfully reared and exquisitely trained people, is so layered in Received and ulterior meaning that I couldn't follow them. An engagement ring has an emerald and a relative asks whether the wearer is superstitious: this I can follow, from this I understand that in this culture an emerald ...more
Leonie
I was slightly surprised by this in that it came together for me better than I was expecting it to. It has its faults; there are regular patches of overwriting, weighing down with introspection and metaphors things that really don't deserve it, something I hadn't noticed in other books I've read by Bowen. The caddish boyfriend Markie (hard to take anyone called Markie seriously, for a start) rarely came alive for me, and I thought it was going to be one of those books where the characters and in ...more
Christy
Aug 09, 2013 Christy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christy by: Eva's Compendium
Shelves: classic
Eva recommended To the North by Elizabeth Bowen because one of my favorite books is Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding and Eva thought their writing styles were similar. I definitely agree. Like Welty, Bowen excels in capturing place, atmosphere, and the dynamic of groups of people. Bowen was an Irish writer, and this book is largely set in England, though it starts on a train traveling through the night in Europe. On that train, young widow Cecilia makes the acquaintance of the somewhat amoral Mark L ...more
Asa
I loved the way this book was written, even though reading this book made me feel claustrophobic. Elizabeth Bowen made me see the characters and their lives, and how they made the only choices they could because of who they were and the kind of world they lived in. The main characters is a young widow, Cecilia, and her sister-in-law, Emmeline, who share a house in London. Cecilia is contemplating a second marriage with a man she doesn't love and finds somewhat boring, mostly because she doesn't ...more
Nancy
Sep 28, 2008 Nancy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nancy by: gerry
This might provoke a very interesting discussion in a reading group: starting with "what makes a novel endure?" To the North was written in the early 1930's and is still in print today. I suspect what makes it timeless is its stark portraiture of emotionally inaccessible characters.

For me, it is rare to read a book that doesn't have a single appealing character in it--but Bowen's people are frighteningly disengaged. I found the book absolutely chilling, but not in a way that drew me in---I am mo
...more
Jesi
This might be the best book I’ve read all year. It is a crying shame that Elizabeth Bowen is not more widely read, and I’m 100% ready to take up her literary apostleship. If you like Woolf, you will absolutely love Bowen. Her prose is just as gorgeous and her insights just as wrenching, but she’s also got something Woolf kind of lacks: the ability to tell a really good page-turner of a story. If you haven’t read Bowen before, this would be a great place to start, as the form is a little more tra ...more
Kimberly
I love Eliz. Bowen. This is one of her best works. This was a first read-through. I'll need to read it again to better understand it. Emmeline, one of the main protagonists, is so remote she seems hardly to be there, until she begins an affair with Markie, who's bad news. Markie takes her on a wild emotional roller coaster ride. ""Spoiler Alert** After Markie breaks off their affair Emmeline remarks that she just needs to be quiet now. This rang so true - how nice it is when the roller coaster r ...more
Ani
This book starts out slowly, but gradually picks up the pace very cleverly until the frantic, whizzing language at the end that reflects the tension of the book's final scenes.

I almost gave up on this book early on, because it really doesn't pick up until the second half.

Also, the final scene is somewhat foreshadowed, but Elizabeth Bowen cleverly throws in red herrings to make you think what happens is going to happen in a different way.
Kelly
Emmeline and her dead brother's wife, Cecilia, share a residence in 1920's London. Cecilia, the young widow, is involved with Julian and apprehensively moves towards remarriage while the more naive, Emmeline, carries on a secret love affair with the brash Mark Linkwater. Bowen is a wordsmith; she draws out the subtleties of the small moments so beautifully that I found myself rereading sections just to enjoy them again.
Jennifer Burns
This book has a very modern day feel to it, even though it was written in the early to mid-twentieth century. I really enjoyed everything about it. It was a subtle love story with many contemporary issues: a woman's right to choose marriage, working women, sex out of wedlock.

They slipped twist onto the book jacket, which ruined the outcome for me. Such is life. . .
Eileen
I find this difficult to really engage with, but well done. I'd prefer to get farther into the heads of the main characters, or I guess to find more to sympathize and identify with in them. While I think a lot of this stems from me not being a class and behavior-conscious Briton of the 30s, that hasn't stopped me from engaging with other books from this setting.
Bloodorange
It took me several chapters to make sure whether they did or did not do it, and by that time, the narrative, previously pleasantly uneventful, became wholly preoccupied with matters of Capital M Morality. Bottom line: this novel aged gracefully, but not well.
Cecily
Sisters in law, sharing a house but living fairly separate but overlapping lives. Lots of movement and travel allusions, though not much actually happens (even travel). The usual brilliant, caustic and slightly surreal analogies.

Elizabeth
Having liked some of her other books so much, I was disappointed that this was so conventionally plotted and that the characters never seemed to come alive. But her writing is beautiful.
Julie
Another booksnob recommendation. Two women in England in the 1920's vie for the love of the same man. Elizabeth Bowen writes beautifully and you are drawn into this story.
Kimberly
After about 50 pages I still had no interest in any of these characters, nor did the story give me any desire to continue reading.
Joseph
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corinne
Emmeline is a strong female character, but the ending is predictable.
Kate
Not her best by any means, but a nice little read nonetheless.
Ken Ficara
To the North by Elizabeth Bowen (2006)
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
More about Elizabeth Bowen...
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