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The Last September

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,485 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
The Last September is Elizabeth Bowen's portrait of a young woman's coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history.

In 1920, at their country home in County Cork, Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, Lady Myra, and their friends maintain a skeptical attitude toward the events going on around them
Paperback, 303 pages
Published March 14th 2000 by Anchor (first published 1929)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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So, I’m not a huge fan of Important Subject books. Books that modestly proclaim on their jackets that they are Essential Reading about a Crucial Time in history that reveal Human Truths about our Darkest Hours, or authors who set soap operas in times of great stress that come with their own built in pile of cultural garbage so as to do the emotional work that their depiction of a relationship is not capable of doing. It’s almost worse when authors like this attempt to deepen their surface drama- ...more
Paul Bryant
It says on the front cover of this copy NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE. Have you ever seen them say NOW A MINOR MOTION PICTURE? No of course not. Or even NOW A MOTION PICTURE. Or NOW A SO-SO ART HOUSE MOVIE. Or NOW A VERY MILDLY ENTERTAINING MINISERIES.

Well, there were two reasons why this was a mistake to pick up. One was I realised I had this year read a great novel called Troubles by JG Farrell all about the declining Anglo-Irish aristocracy during the Irish War of Independence after World War O
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: slow swords
Recommended to Mariel by: backspace century
The Last September does not have power over me for what is believed to be lost. I do not mourn the loss of the English in Ireland living the good life of big houses.
What, Mariel? Sorry, my trains of thoughts are crashing. What?
Tell about the movie! Not yet-- okay, the movie is no good (nevermind that twenty year old me kinda liked it! Why are you admitting that? It isn't relevant to now!) because it evokes the feelings of rainy dinner party days and first horniness. Dinner parties like people ge
Mar 13, 2014 Miriam rated it really liked it
Shelves: realism
The characters of The Last September all seem to suffer from lethargy and incipient depression. They are unable to act, know, or even care. Only the wind has energy. Throughout the novel they are increasingly defined by relationship to objects, a move which is foreshadowed by the narrator's early listing of things amongst which she is at home.
An Anglo-Irish novel of manners with overtures of a buildungsroman and subtle, distilled poetry of place and time. A few of of my classmates remarked how it seemed like something written by Jane Austen- the praise is pretty high, and thematically well taken.

Some famous critic (Edward Said? Lionel Trilling? Somebody help me out here) remarked that the heroes and heroines in Austen's fiction are painstakingly indifferent to the world around them- it's all upper bourgeoise drawing rooms, garden pa
Mar 13, 2012 Dirk rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves fine writing
Recommended to Dirk by: Jane Burton
This novel is set among the Anglo-Irish upper classes, the class of Lady Gregory for Yates fans, in the 1920s. The protagonist is a young girl in her 20s whose mother has died and is in effect the ward of her aunt, Lady Naylor. The book deals with friendships and love affairs of young women of this class while the threat of the IRA hulks in the background. What is wonderful about this book is the writing. The dialogue is witty, sometimes bordering on something you would hear in Oscar Wilde. Thes ...more
Justin Evans
Feb 05, 2011 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The earliest Bowen I've read- not as great as Heat of the Day, but one of the best I've read. The prose is extremely dense, and beautiful; the characters are compelling; but there's not much story to speak of, and the ending's kind of unnecessary and lame. I wish I could have a chat at the bar with some of the people whose reviews complain about a lack of irony on the narrator's part, saying that Lois is self-obsessed, that everyone is self-obsessed, and that Bowen thinks this is the way things ...more
Aug 17, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it
Published in 1929, this novel by Elizabeth Bowen takes place in 1920 in County Cork, Ireland, and involves the lives of Protestant Anglo-Irish landowners who are only gradually coming to terms with the fact that their way of life is about to come to an end as Ireland is about to become independent of Britain. Their leisured existence is being played out on large plantations while, in the background, British army patrols and Irish patriots are engaged in a sort of guerrilla war. This landed arist ...more
Sep 12, 2013 Christin rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Last September is a social comedy, along the lines of Pride and Prejudice, yet with slightly darker elements. This is also written in a much more specific political and historical context, specifically in Ireland in 1920, around the time of the revolution. I read this book for a class and definitely really enjoyed it.

I think part of what makes this book is the characters. I definitely laughed out loud a t several points throughout the book. It may seem like it would be hard to connect with t
May 28, 2016 Noah rated it it was ok
Reads like Virginia Woolf, minus the recognizable Woolf aesthetic. Unfortunately subtle, to the point of lacking rather than hiding.
Ellen Pierson
Dec 17, 2009 Ellen Pierson rated it it was ok
well this book took me 2 months to read, although it was not very long. it definitely did not move fast. it's about the anglo-irish in the 1920s, which i guess is not the perspective you usually get when you're looking at books about Ireland in the 20s, but i was pretty much rooting for their mansion to be burned down by about page 20. they were awfully inane. i mean i think was one of the main things bowen was trying to convey, but she seemed to forgive them for it, and at least in my experienc ...more
Feb 03, 2013 Nigeyb rated it it was ok
Great art is both challenging and accessible. Elizabeth Bowen's highly wrought Modernist writing style resulted in me having to frequently re-read passages and ponder their meaning. It's not a style I enjoy. I like clarity and prefer to be led by hand.

It's a shame because she manages to evoke a clear sense of Ireland during this key period of turmoil (the troubles in 1920), and specifically how the Anglo-Irish aristocracy appear to have refused to accept that anything was wrong. This means the b
Travelling Sunny
Ugh! This is supposed to be an Important Book, describing what life was like in Ireland back in the days of the Black and Tans. But, other than a few quick scenes (a guy in the bushes that Lois hid from, mentions of the safety of traveling for a dance, that whole incident in the old mill) I just didn't feel a sense of foreboding. Or, maybe that WAS the point? The Irish just didn't take it seriously? I don't know.

What I DO know is that I could not enjoy the dialogue in this book. Cryptic conversa
Donna Girouard
Dec 02, 2012 Donna Girouard rated it did not like it
I'm finished with this book, but I did NOT finish it. I can't. I can't get past the language. Bowen may be Irish but she writes like a Brit: "Two armchairs faced round intently into the empty grate with its paper fan." "She glanced intently along the rows of books."

Overuse of adverbs and adjectives is a problem for me:

"'Aren't we dusty?'" she added as Lois said nothing. "'Aren't we too terribly dusty?'" (4)

"'And she would do nothing but say she was dusty, and of course she was dusty, so there w
Feb 25, 2016 Corrie rated it liked it
Giving this 3.5/5 because I am still unsure as to how I feel about it.
I liked the first 1/3 much more than the rest of the novel. Virginia Woolf-esque? Sign me up. Queer? Two scoops of yes! But the novel stagnates (which fine, that's the point of portraying this Anglo-Irish decline) without any stylistic beauty to keep me interested.
I enjoyed discussing this novel much more than actually reading it.
Jylana Collins
Jul 04, 2016 Jylana Collins rated it really liked it
I loved this book but would not recommend it to others without also saying how difficult it was to read at times. The book drops the reader into a world that does not exist anymore. I really felt taken there. I also appreciate and admire a writer who excels at conveying half-thoughts that the characters themselves are barely aware of. The main characters are well-drawn, there is a lot of humor along with the darkness and the writing is excellent - most of the time. I had to read many sentences a ...more
Vivian Valvano
Jul 09, 2015 Vivian Valvano rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone who is serious about Irsh literature in relation to 20th-century Irish history. Written in 1929 by Bowen, a woman of the Anglo-Irish landed class (her memoir "Bowen's Court" recounts the family and estate history), this novel centers on the last September of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy's position. It is 1920, and the Black and Tans are fighting the British Army in the guerrilla fighting that came to be known as the Anglo-Irish War. In 1921, the Treaty would be signed, and t ...more
Elizabeth Moffat
Mar 13, 2013 Elizabeth Moffat rated it it was ok
I didn't get on with this book at all, I'm afraid. I believe the author is trying to write a novel about the gentry's attitudes in the midst of the Irish Troubles but it felt a bit dull to me. I did appreciate the descriptive language and the humour, but it only seemed to perk up at the end.

Please see my full review at
Apr 10, 2009 Eileen rated it really liked it
Shelves: britlit, virago
I kept reading more Eliz Bowen knowing I would eventually really like one of her books. This is the one. Irish nationalism impinges on the Anglo-Irish gentry and the British subalterns in the "occupying force"; Anglo-Irish county life sustains and yet is clearly aimed for failure.
May 27, 2008 Liz rated it really liked it
Lyrical and haunting, about a period in Irish life long-fled, though the novel was written less than a decade after its ending. My favorite after "Death of the Heart" and "House in Paris." Style is demanding, a bit self-consciously so.
Just arrived from USA through BM.

A mild story, social comedy combined with private tragedy, of an Irish family in County Cork (1920).
Dec 04, 2013 Teresa rated it it was ok
There are some books that's simply aren't compatible with oneself, that's the case.
Maria Matthews
May 23, 2016 Maria Matthews rated it it was amazing
I loved her style of writing, her prose made me giggle. I found myself stopping to consider her descriptions, phrases like:
Her manner of sitting and waiting most strongly encouraged an exit,
made the reading of the book a delight but it also slowed me down as I read and reread paragraphs.

I did wonder at how isolated they, The Naylors and the Montmorencys, were in respect to the Irish rebellion which was happening right on their doorstep and how ignorant they were of the whole issue. They were in
Kate North
Jul 11, 2015 Kate North rated it liked it
It's funny how much books can be a product of their time, not in content, but in style - this, written in 1929 (ish) is very much a case in point - which isn't a bad time, as I quite like the feel many of the deceptively still and gentle novels of the early 20th century (especially those written by women). Set in Ireland during the war for independence, this seems to be the story of a house party, but things aren't always as they seem, and as is often the case, the inevitable tragedy looms, then ...more
Bouchra Rebiai
Although only about 600 screens on my iBooks app, I struggled to get through this book. It took me about a week to get to the end -- for comparison, I read the Harry Potter books, all much longer than this one, within 24 - 36 hours.

Having recently finished Pride and Prejudice, I disagree completely with those who compare Elizabeth Bowen with Jane Austen. Austen has one central character -- the same is seen here with Lois Farquay being the main subject of the book, but unlike Austen, whose heroin
Apr 15, 2011 Asa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something about the way Elizabeth Bowen writes that always (or at least in the three books I've read so far) draws me in, despite the fact that her books don't sound like the kind of thing I usually enjoy. I think it's a combination of the way she writes (I'm fond of beautiful language and interesting descriptions of ordinary things) and the fact that her characters feels like ordinary people that you might know and can imagine talking to in real life. In this book, she also has an inter ...more
Apr 15, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
From the beginning of the novel, the reader realizes what the characters refuse to admit--that Anglo-Irish society, its “big houses” and plantations, its tennis parties and teas are all doomed. It is “The Last September” because within a year all these will have vanished. But even while living the good life, these characters feel themselves insubstantial; nothing feels real to them; their own existence seems shadowy. The Anglo-Irish seem suspended, unable to act, caught between disdain for the B ...more
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
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“Livvy noted there seemed some communal feeling between the married: any wife could be faintly rude to anyone else's husband.” 7 likes
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