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The Death of the Heart

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3.7  ·  Rating details ·  5,024 Ratings  ·  341 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 1938)
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Maya Litani Yes.
The content is mature, the nature of the relationships are complex, but there's little to no mention of sex.
PG.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jaidee
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4.5 "restrained and elegantly cruel" stars

10th Favorite Read of 2015

"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
...more
Mariel
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
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
Jenn(ifer)
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Alex
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"There is no ordinary life" is what our poor naif Portia learns about society. She's like that Nell lady, born in the wilderness and sent suddenly into society without even a language to speak. Her education is brutal.

Upon her parents' death, she's sent to live with half-brother Thomas, 20 years her senior, and his wife Anna. They are sociopaths. Portia doesn't know what society is like, but society doesn't know what humans are like. "However much of a monster you may be," says Thomas to monstr
...more
Miriam
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: realism
Poor Portia. Poor everyone.

In real life I'm rarely this sympathetic to horrible people. Maybe I should be.
Cecily
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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.

Nostalgebraist
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
Melee
Jun 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen
عنوان: مرگ قلب؛ نویسنده: الیزابت بوئن؛ برگردان: سما قرایی؛ تهران، نشر شور، 1391؛ در 320 ص؛ شابک: 9786009067466؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - قرن 20 م

knig
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feel-goods, 2012
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 Tablets an
...more
Tony
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mnemosyne
Feb 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-irlanda, e3
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
Seth
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kusaimamekirai
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-ireland
This is a tricky review simply because I don't think I've ever been so fascinated and drawn into a novel where nothing happens. There are some minor events, diaries read, summers at the sea, starts and ends to relationships, but even in these strands, there's never any one decisive moment of resolution or something that takes your breath away. Rather there is a lot of sameness, a lot of meanness, a LOT of unhappiness.
The genius of this novel lies instead I'm the interior worlds of these charact
...more
drea
Feb 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Colleen
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bildungsroman, women
The Unkindness of Civility

First off, let me say that the Anchor paperback edition is a pleasure to read, as are all the Bowen novels in this series. It has clean generous type, a binding that stays open, a cover that feels good in the hand, an attractive and totally relevant illustration, typography that captures both Bowen's elegance and her modernity, and—wonder of wonders—a back-cover blurb that brilliantly encapsulates the essence of this elusive novel. For example: "As she deftly and delica
...more
Lobstergirl
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mary
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dillwynia Peter
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With imprints like Virago, Elizabeth Bowen has had a resurgence of popularity with a new audience. This is a wonderful thing because of where Bowen sits within the canon: she is a forgotten voice between the Bloomsbury 20s and 30s and the kitchen sink realism of the 50s; having said that, she is also a writer than is herself and stands alone.

Primarily, this is a book about lost innocence and about the pitfalls of 1st late teenage love. I can hear some of you turning your minds off immediately, b
...more
Stephanie Sun
What a strange little book!

In The Death of the Heart, you'll find characters who swing wildly and often from sharp bourgeois caricatures to sympathetic portraits of people struggling with the collapse of social mores in post-WWI London to sockpuppets mouthing the author's Complex Feelings About Class and Cynicism and Honor and Love.

There is really top-notch writing here—the opening image of the swans on the frozen lake is original and fantastic; I loved this passsage about dawn and summer encro
...more
Madeline
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Madeline by: Patricia McKillip, oddly enough.
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
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
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
مروان البلوشي
تاريخ القراءة الأصلية : ٢٠١٠
قساوة الواقع الذكوري وتآمره على ضعف المرأة يدفعها نحو الهاوية والجنون
Nancy
#20BooksOfSummer It is a classic....but I didn't enjoy this book.
I'd rather read about a brave General Ulysses S. Grant
He showed more character...then I found in this book.
Review
Lauren Albert
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I am one of those many abusers of the term "Jamesian." But the dialogue in this novel was replete with echoes of James. Though the details of the stories are very different, I kept thinking of James' What Maisie Knew--adultery and innocence (and the death of it) are at the heart of both novels. And, as with James, there are streaks of humor, "For Portia, Daphne and Dickie seemed a crisis that surely must be unique: she could not believe that they happened every day."

My one criticism is that Bowe
...more
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
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“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.” 99 likes
“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.” 87 likes
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