Cheryl's Reviews > The Last September

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
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's review
Sep 15, 12

bookshelves: literary-fiction
Read in September, 2012

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 that happen seemingly undisturbed.

Like a Greek tragedy, Irish independence will bring about the extinction of their Anglo-Irish class, but the conflict and its inevitable aftermath happen on the edge of Bowen's narrative. The events are observed, but their meaning is not absorbed by those who will be most effected.

The characters seem to be in a cocoon both externally and internally. In reality, when decisions are avoided, convictions aren't crystalized, and actions not taken, we become vulnerable to external forces acting upon us. Indecision and divided loyalties are at the core of Bowen's novel, and the consequences will mark the end of an era now frozen in time, much like the thought lives of her well defined characters.

Bowen (1899-1973) wrote autobiographically in this novel. In 1930, she was the only woman to inherit her family estate, Bowen Court, where she entertained Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty, and Iris Murdoch. In a long term marriage of convenience, Bowen had affairs with both men and women. Same sex attraction is alluded to in this novel.

In THE LAST SEPTEMBER, Bowen presents situations seemingly tranqil on the surface, but boiling when the lid is lifted. Highly Recommended!

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