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The Last September

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,002 ratings  ·  184 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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"Their life, through which they went forward uncertainly, without the compulsion of tragedy, was a net of small complications."

Isn't that the perfect definition of ordinary life, lived by ordinary people who have no potential for heroism or martyrdom, but who consider their small complications important enough to care about them and to take necessary action to secure their status quo or to change it, according to need?

The tragedy of The Last September lies in the fact that the reader knows the
I love to find mention of books within other books.
So it was that when I recently read The Awkward Age by Henry James, I paid particular attention to a blue-covered novel that had one of the characters' names inscribed in it. I watched as the novel was passed around, influencing the fate of several characters in the process, and rewarding me for paying attention. That episode reminded me of other stories in which books within books had moved the plot along: A Room with a View, for example, wher
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel was first published in 1929, one of the classics of literature of the time, and my first experience with Elizabeth Bowen’s writing.

One of the first things I found interesting was the great care the author took in keeping the story relatively dispassionate throughout. In doing so, she reflected the attitudes of the people she wrote about, and the times they lived in.

It is Ireland, “between the wars”; a time when England had sent out the “Black and Tans” with the expressed purpose of ke
Paul Bryant
Apr 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, novels
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
Violet wells
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very much like To the North, this is Elizabeth Bowen finding her feet as a novelist. Once again the narrative perspective is overly fidgety, flitting from head to head. I found only three characters warranted the attention given to them - Lois, Hugo and Lady Naylor. The other characters were largely present to provide social comedy which is the task set the dialogue. Their inner lives weren't very interesting. Even the social comedy is largely derivative (Forster's mischievous sympathy towards d ...more
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
Mar 23, 2011 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
Jan 16, 2009 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.
Not a favourite I'm afraid. If I hadn't read the very excellent Troubles by Farrell last year I might have thought more highly of this one.

The characters didn't resonate with me, they were so self centred and rudderless. I read this because of the time period depicted. This is a slow, gently unfolding story, no doubt too gently unfolding.

Just not my cup of tea.
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
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Like splintered darkness, branches pierced the faltering dusk of leaves. Evening drenched the trees; the beeches were soundless cataracts. Behind the trees, pressing in from the open and empty country like an invasion, the orange bright sky crept and smouldered. Firs, bearing up to pierce, melted against the brightness. Somewhere, there was a sunset in which the mountains lay like glass.
Dark had so gained the trees that Lois, turning back from the window, was surprised at how light the room wa
Mar 13, 2012 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
Jan 28, 2013 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
Justin Evans
Feb 05, 2011 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
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2010 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
Mientras Leo
Me ha gustado el relato de la estaticidad de determinado tipo de sociedad ante los cambios externos negándose a verlos, pero le ha faltado un poco de profundidad para que fuera creíble
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
"Life, seen whole for a moment, was one act of apprehension, the apprehension of death."

there were a lot of wonderful descriptions and word pictures, but overall it was confusing and very dramatic and I didn't really like any of the characters. maybe Francie and Marda, some.

but why? what? I understand surprisingly little of what happened. 😶 I think there's a to "get" - I'm pretty sure it's deeper than I realize. but I am a lazy reader and don't want to reread everything and ponder such a long bo
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

Michael Gambon ... Sir Richard Naylor
Tom Hickey ... O'Brien
Keeley Hawes ... Lois Farquar
David Tennant ... Captain Gerald Colthurst
Richard Roxburgh ...Captain Daventry
Gary Lydon ... Peter Connolly
Maggie Smith ... Lady Myra Naylor

Summary - 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
Book Wormy
I found this book so dull I forgot who the characters were and didn't care what happened to them.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 18tbr, fiction
A young girl comes of age (or does she) in an Anglo-Irish great house belonging to her uncle and aunt. Their visitors play tennis, go for strolls, write letters, and take tea, but the war for Irish independence is like ominous music surfacing now and then from the background, and in a society divided between the Irish population and the British army soldiers, the well-to-do Anglo-Irish are not quite one or the other. In addition to a gift for original descriptions of landscape and feeling, the a ...more
Sharyn Taylor
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
She didn't make me care enough about the characters. Distant and vague. Learned something about the Irish Civil War in early 1920's which was interesting but next time, back to Virginia Woolf for this period.
Isabelle Leo
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-summer
Ali Lafferty
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK UNTIL THE LAST 15 PAGES AND IT WILL KILL YOU. I've found a new love for Bowen, whom I've never read before, but who reminds me a great deal of Betty Smith, one of my favorite authors. I don't know how I feel about reading stuffy novels about the Protestant ascendancy class in Ireland, but the protagonist of this novel, Lois, was interesting and unsure and self-conscious and I loved following her through her days of doing literally nothing besides debate whether or no ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ellen Pierson
Dec 01, 2008 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
Ronan Mcdonnell
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a dense book.
Like many I found it difficult to follow the dialogue. ALthough I am certain this was the author's intention. It reads like you might expect a teenaged society girl to pick up on life - conversations are snippets, non-sequiturs, outrage and excitement. We read it as she might have digested it later; who said what is unimportant as she tries to pick a future path for herself, while surrounded by interpersonal hustle and bustle.
The author has cleverly equated this with Ireland's
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Reading 1001: The Last September 18 15 Sep 29, 2016 02:13PM  
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  • Ormond
  • Novel on Yellow Paper (Revived Modern Classic)
  • The Newton Letter  (Revolutions Trilogy, #3)
  • Fools of Fortune
  • Personality
  • Afternoon Men
  • In the Forest
  • Headlong Hall
  • Belfast Confetti
  • Clayhanger
  • The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
  • The Weather in the Streets
  • The Birds Fall Down
  • The Heather Blazing
  • Reading in the Dark
  • Grace Notes
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
“But surely love wouldn't get so much talked about if there were not something in it?” 7 likes
“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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