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The Last September

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  1,296 ratings  ·  128 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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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
Cheryl Kennedy
Elizabeth Bowen's novel of the Irish rebellion after WWI reads like a still life painting with lines drawn deliberately around the rural setting, characters in equilibrium, and a motionless plot until the inevitable, tragic end.

With the war between the Irish Republicans and the British Army escalating outside their gates, Sir Richard and Lady Myra Naylor's ordinary life continues inside Danielstown, their County Cork home. There are guest arrivals, tennis parties, army dances, and scheduled teas
Mar 23, 2011 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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.
Mar 13, 2012 Dirk rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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Justin Evans
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
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
4.5 Stars
Ellen Pierson
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
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
Donna Girouard
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
Vivian Valvano
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
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
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.
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).
There are some books that's simply aren't compatible with oneself, that's the case.
Kate North
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
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
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
This is my second Bowen novel (first was Heat of the Day, which I am convinced I should give another shot; I have dubbed that my "narcolepsy book" since I fell asleep nearly every time I picked it up, but now think I might be in a better position to appreciate it--but that's neither here nor there).

This book was slow-moving and ornate, neither of these traits necessarily a negative in my opinion. The novel is set in Ireland in the 1920s during "The Troubles" (a classic Irish understatement) betw
Lori Baldi
This book was pretty good but not the outstanding book that I had been given to expect. The writing was beautiful -- very lyrical and evocative of the setting. I had not read anything with the type of setting shown here. The Anglo-Irish at the time of the Irish over-throw of the English. I was amazed at the fuzzy headed thinkning shown by the main characters and of course they did interact with the English soldiers and their people. There was also some intermigling with the Catholic Irish who we ...more
Joy H.
Sep 25, 2013 Joy H. marked it as watched-film-only
Added 9/25/13.
I did not read this book. I watched the film adaptation via Netflix:
"The Last September" (1999)
"In 1920s Ireland, an elderly couple reside over a tired country estate. Living with them are their high-spirited niece, their Oxford student nephew, and married house guests, who are trying to cover up that they are presently homeless. The niece enjoys romantic frolics with a soldier and a hidden guerrilla fighter. All of the principals are thrown
In 1920 as the Irish troubles sweep the County Cork countryside, at Danielstown, the home of Anglo-Irish aristocrat Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, the round of dances, tennis-parties and visitors continues unabated. Also at Danielstown is Lois, Lady Myra Naylor’s orphaned niece, eighteen years old, self-conscious, having just left school she waits for life to start. Laurence, Sir Richard’s nephew – a not entirely likeable young man is the final member of the household, before the visitors star ...more
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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 House in Paris The Heat of the Day Eva Trout The Collected Stories

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