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The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  162 ratings  ·  41 reviews
'The nightly routine of sirens, barrage, the probing raider, the unmistakable engine ... the bomb-bursts moving nearer and then moving away, hold one like a love-charm' --Graham Greene

When the first bombs fell on London in August 1940, the city was transformed overnight into a strange kind of battlefield. For most Londoners, the sirens, guns, planes, and bombs brought slee
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Bloomsbury Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  162 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Roman Clodia
Jun 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On re-reading, this book worked better for me: perhaps because I knew what to expect, perhaps because I went in the second time with a specific interest in Bowen and Greene to link to fictional works of theirs - whatever the reason, Feigel's deft interweavings of the events of WW2 with the lives of these authors felt illuminating so I've raised by rating to 4 stars.

The idea of this book really appealed to me: restless writers and passionate love affair
Feb 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lara Feigel, the author of The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War, was one of the interviewees on a very interesting, 2013 episode of BBC's The Culture Show entitled "Wars of the Heart". "Wars of the Heart" explained that whilst for many Londoners during the Second World War, the Blitz was a terrifying time of sleeplessness, fear and loss, some of London's literary set found inspiration, excitement and freedom in the danger and intensity. The imminent threat of death giv ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was smitten with ‘The Love-charm of Bombs’ from the very first time I read about it. The prospect of seeing London in the Second World War through the eyes of five remarkable writers – Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and Henry Yorke (who wrote under the name Henry Green) – was simply irresistible.

And I was pulled in from the very first page, into the Blitz. I found Rose Macaulay, who had already lived through the Great War, driving an ambulance; Elizabeth Bowen and
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account of the war years of five authors: Graham Greene, Henry Yorke (Henry Green), Rose Macaulay, Elizabeth Bowen and Hilde Spiel. The first four shared friends and success in the London literay scene. Hilde Spiel was an exile from Europe, whose career was stalled and who struggled with money worries, upheaval and a feeling of dislocation.

This book looks at novels written during those years, love affairs and the work done by the first four in helping protect London during the Blitz
Roger Brunyate
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, ww2
Endurance and Adultery

I don't normally read or review non-fiction, but this is a book about novelists. Two of them are favorites (Elizabeth Bowen and Graham Greene); two (Rose Macaulay and Henry Yorke a.k.a. Green) are great writers whom I have merely sampled; and the fifth (Austrian expatriate Hilde Spiel) was completely unknown to me. All five lived in London during the Blitz of 1940–41, engaged in often heroic civilian work, found their lives expanding in unexpected ways as the normal barrier
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely interesting multibiography that caused me to seriously question one of my favourite authors and add others to my "want to read" list.

As the war stretched on the stories palled for me; people who were interesting and, dare I say, romantically urgent became insufferably preoccupied with love and unpleasantly conservative in their convictions. When even the Austrian immigrant who had felt out of place in England for a decade declared her disappointment in Attlee's landslide victory, I ne
Girl with her Head in a Book
Elizabeth Bowen said in later life that 'I would not have missed being in London throughout the war for anything.' She was open about considering it the most interesting period of her life. That sense of excitement comes across very vividly in her most famous novel The Heat of the Day where Stella and Louie wander the deserted streets of Blitz-torn London and the ordinary rules of society are suspended. While World War One is known for its poetry from the trenches, its successor has been regarde ...more
Jenny Tipping
This book is encapsulated in a quote right at the end by one of its subjects Elizabeth Bowen, "War is a prolonged passionate act, and we were involved in it." It follows five writers, Bowen, Graham Greene, Henry Yorke, Rose Macaulay and Hilde Spiel from the declaration of war through to the 1950s, with a particular focus on their love lives and their writing.

The book gives an alternative view of the war and I enjoyed seeing the war from the point of view of creative writers, rather than the dry
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The lives, loves, stories and wartime volunteer work of four writers are interwoven into a very well written history. Another writer, Hilde Spiel, gives a dramatic contrast.
The author has done her research, but doesn't push all the information she uncovered, she selects. The quotations from diaries, memoirs, letters and fiction are well chosen and apposite. She uses war time records to good effect rather than listing statistics. She intersperses the fiction and real lives of these writers to goo
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Quite marvellous exploration of the impact of living in London during the Blitz on five writers - Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Henry Yorke, and Hilde Spiel. Feigel writes deftly and intuitively, drawing connections between experiences, and wearing her careful research lightly.. Really worthwhile.

Also, goodness, the adultery in those days! I feel very square. Though more sophisticated from having read this.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A truly intimate look at London during WWII and the Blitz, through the eyes of some of England's finest authors.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War is the newest offering from established non-fiction writer and King's College London lecturer Lara Feigel. I was lucky enough to meet Dr Feigel whilst studying at King's. Here, she has attempted to create ‘a powerful wartime chronicle told through the eyes of five prominent writers: Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and Henry Yorke (writing as Henry Green).’ These authors, Feigel states in her introduction, ...more
An account of five writers and their experiences during the Blitz. These are interesting people and it is written engagingly. Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen were Air RAID wardens and both had a good war. Henry York who wrote as Henry Green was an auxiliary fireman. Rose MacAuley was an ambulance driver. They had a good war too. Overall it was better to be active than to sit and wait for bombs to fall on you. Hilde Spiel was not so settled. She had escaped Vienna at the start of the war with h ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Although very interesting, I was always aware during this account of five British authors and their experiences during the Blitz, that this would have been vastly more enjoyable to me if I enjoyed reading these authors. (Actually, I do enjoy Graham Greene, though maybe less after this unflattering view of him.)
Christopher Hull
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great concept for a non-fiction book. Fascinating and well written.
Jan 31, 2019 rated it liked it
It begins well enough but tails off.
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014, wwii
Surprisingly good account of five successful novelists' lives during and after World War II. This serves as a very interesting and educational timeline regarding general WWII events and day-to-day life in war-torn London, especially during the Blitz.

These writers--Rose Macaulay, Graham Greene, Henry Yorke (writing as Henry Green), Elizabeth Bowen, and (less so) Hilde Spiel--all seemed to live their lives in a very self-centered and privileged fashion. Not just how they were able to attend or ho
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it
The book’s premise is how London was transformed into a battlefront during WWII, but for many (including writers) it became a bizarrely euphoric time for passionate love affairs and surreal beauty. Focus is given to five authors: Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Henry Yorke and Hilde Spiel…and they crossed literary and social paths… and beds.

Toward the end of the book (and the war) where the writers were reporting on what they experienced on V-E Day. one noted the rusted barbed wir
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Literate love among the ruins

The Love-charm of Bombs has a very interesting slant on life during and immediately after WWII because its focus is the experiences of five noteworthy authors, Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel, and Henry Yorke, who wrote under the name Henry Green. Since it discusses the way the war affected what they wrote in such fascinating detail, it added a number of books to my already over long to-be-read list, so be forewarned.

This book opens durin
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Droning things, mindlessly making for one." - Elizabeth Bowen describing V1's.
Love, World War II, London, the Blitz, buzzbombs...this book has so many things which have always fascinated me.
Five writers (Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macaulay, Graham Greene, Henry Yorke and Hilde Spiel) spent most of the war years in London. Through letters and diaries, Lara Feigel can sometimes pinpoint what each of them was doing on the same night. For Bowen, Yorke and Greene, the Blitz is exhilarating, they never f
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you love writing, famous authors, their lives, what factors influence their writing, the Brits, and the timeperiod of WWII, this book is for you. A well researched non-fiction book on the lives of five writers in London during WWII: Elizabeth Bowen who worked as a volunteer for the Home Guard in Marylebone; Graham Greene who volunteered for the Home Guard in Bloomsbury; Rose Macaulay who drive an ambulance; Henry Yorke who volunteered with the fire brigade; and Hilde Spiel in Wimbledon.
The b
Paola Orellana
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british
This book was different from what I expected when I first picked it up. Expecting a book that empathized the courage and bravery of the English citizens, I found that and a bit more than I was expecting. Feigel had completely destroyed my illusions of what propaganda during 1940s London led me to believe. Expecting to find a story of how British citizens gathered together and found an ability to "keep calm and carry on", I instead found a city full of people that once the shine of war weaned off ...more
Janet Schneider
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Having loved Rhidian Brook's masterful recent novel "The Aftermath," the riveting "A Commonplace Killing" by Sian Busby, as well as Graham Greene's "After the Affair" and others, I was drawn to what was described as a critical look at literary lives impacted by the bombings of WWII.

That is not this book.

"The Love-Charm of Bombs" by Lara Feigel, despite having a great title, is an unfocused, uninteresting and awkwardly written account of World War II-besieged Europe (what one critic refers to "
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ww2
Really good idea to interweave the lives of 5 writers and their experiences of life in London and beyond during WW2. The title is a bit misleading though as the book also covers the period after the war is over.
The amount of adultery going on amongst all 5 is eye popping. But I guess that if you are pretty convinced that a bomb has your name on, or your country is going to be invaded or whatever then morals tend to fly out of the window. Graham Greene's conversion to Catholicism doesn't stop hi
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've always been fascinated about life in London during the Blitz, so when I saw that there was a book that covered five authors who lived in London during the Blitz and how it influenced their lives and writing, I was ALL OVER THIS. Out of all the authors, I am the most familiar with Graham Greene, and of all the stories, it was his that I focused on and really looked toward to reading. It was a bit remarkable at all the infidelity going on in the book, but that was partly the point of it. Life ...more
Feb 03, 2014 added it
Five writers lives are examined for how they were changed by living in London during the Blitz. Elizabeth Bowen, Rose McCauley, Graham Greene, Hilde Spiel and Henry Green all saw their lives intensify during these vivid years. The author tracks them through letters and diaries. There is a stunning amount of infidelity within the group. Love affairs take on exaggerated importance. Pining for the lover who is not around is a common preoccupation. Writers exhibit no more common sense than ordinary ...more
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
This is an interesting hybrid of a book; part historical account, part biography, part literary criticism. I wasn't sure it quite worked at first, but it held together magnificently.

An account of the Blitz through the lives and books of five British authors who lived through it - I was skimming for Macaulay, but the narrative was interwoven so skillfully with Bowen, Greene et al. that I read it as a whole. Three-dimensional in a way lit crit or literary bio can fail to be on their own at really
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
While I gained greater insight to daily life in London during the Blitz, I was not very interested in the minute history of five British writers. I imagine the writer spent considerable time piecing the literary history of these writers and it would be relevant to anyone studying British literature. I found it tedious and wished the writer would avail herself to summarizing in grand sweeps ... though I suppose this would do a great disservice to herself and the writers of interest.

Will Dunfey
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
In an odd way a comparable book to "Parallel Lives" - but with 20th century mayhem and multiple partners outside of marriage. The actual marriages of these literary figures in mid-century are as unusual as those depicted in the Victorian era of "Parallel Lives." There is a lot of analysis of authors' lives in the context of fiction that they compose and publish. Graham Greene, Henry Green, and Elizabeth Bowen are the three central and better known authors in the book.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Horrible title, interesting book. This followed five authors (Elizabeth Bowen, Rose MacCauley, Hilde Spiel, Graham Greene and Henry Green) during the Blitz and the years immediately after. I think I was expecting a little more interaction between the authors, and occasionally, it read as though it were a dissertation expanded into a book, but overall, it was enjoyable and prompted me to check out books by the various authors.
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Bright Young Things: April 2014 - The Love Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel 43 30 May 15, 2014 02:38AM  

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