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The Last September

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,328 ratings  ·  230 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
...more
Paperback, 303 pages
Published March 14th 2000 by Anchor (first published 1929)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  2,328 ratings  ·  230 reviews


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Fionnuala
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
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Lisa
"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
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Jaline
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2018-completed
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
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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
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
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Kelly
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
Roman Clodia
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The screen of trees that reached like an arm from behind the house - embracing the lawns, banks and terraces in mild ascent - had darkened, deepening into a forest. 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.

For those of us who love close reading, the entire arc of this novel
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Mir
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.
Mariel
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
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Matt
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
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Cphe
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.
J.
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
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Laura
Just arrived from USA through BM.

A mild story, social comedy combined with private tragedy, of an Irish family in County Cork (1920).

From BBC radio 4 Extra:
Episode 1 of 2

1920, Danielstown, County Cork. Lois is poised on the brink of womanhood. She dances and flirts with English officers, but they do not always return from patrols.

Elizabeth Bowen's 1929 novel dramatised in two-parts by Nigel Gearing.

Lois ... Anna Healy
Gerald ... Greg Wise
Lady Myra ... Carmel McSharry
Sir Richard ... Denys Hawthorn
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This feels like such a quiet novel. Lois Farquar, a young woman whose age isn't clear until the very end, wants to know what love is like. We learn her thoughts on the subject, not necessarily as to any particular man, just love in general. She is young and eventually her thoughts on the subject of love become more specific. The family is indescribably wealthy. They live in a mansion and their friends live in other mansions in the area. There is a tennis party - they have two courts! People just ...more
Susan
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1929, this novel is set firmly in Bowen's own experiences. She, herself, grew up in a 'Big House,' Anglo-Irish house. In the case of this novel, the house - almost a character in itself - is 'Danielstown' in Co. Cork, owned by Sir Richard and Lady Naylor. Also staying are Laurence, usually found with a book in his hand, and young Lois, an orphaned niece and central character of the novel.

Set in 1920, a house which has been an oasis of privilege, now has Sinn Fein gunmen on the perip
...more
Nigeyb
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
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Tracey the Bookworm
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is in 3 parts. I wasn’t really sure about this one when I started it. Bowen’s writing is quite unusual and she has sentences and thoughts scattered and then jumbled together. As I started to read part 2 the story line began to unfold and by part 3, I could see the picture Bowen was painting all along.
One has to read this one slowly and pay attention to words and the way Bowen uses them. Everything is sinister, hidden, distressed or hysterical. With the adjectives she uses to describe s
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Dirk
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
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
Christin
Jan 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bruce
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
Susan
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
Monty Milne
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
My first Bowen but it wont be my last. A wistful elegy on a doomed way of life. It helps that my sympathies are entirely with the Anglo Irish. But there is always something appealing about the dusk gathering on remnants of Empire, no matter whose: I come out in lachrymose melancholy thinking about the end of the Ottomans and the Habsburgs too. And this for me is a lot closer to home.
Kris McCracken
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
No, I just found this incredibly dull. Honestly, I don't intend to read novels about rich, dull people; but there are just so MANY about, and it can be hard to avoid them.
Edward
Nov 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This novel reminded me of one of the great Indian director Satyajit Ray’s films, “The Chess Players,” in which several 19th century provincial administrators spend all of their time playing interminable chess games, living in a stylized game version of “war” instead of of dealing with the real life consequences of their provinces being overrun by the British armies.

In Bowen’s novel the picture is of a group of English aristocrats living in Ireland in l920 as the Irish are fighting for their ind
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Audrey
I'm usually a huge Bowen fan, but this one left me just puzzled, more than anything else. There's a lot of casually appearing in doorways and picking up conversations that ostensibly began earlier, and a lot of conversations that consist solely of characters interrupting each other, or talking to themselves, or musing about the conversations they wish they were having, which aren't the ones the reader is currently following. A lot of things either clearly unsaid, opaquely unsaid or said in other ...more
Becky
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
...more
Marylouise
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am on an Elizabeth Bowen kick. I finished The Heat of the Day recently and had to have more. I just loved her description of the large Irish country house in the The Heat of the Day so much that I went directly to her novel The Last September. Published in 1929 it centers on a young Anglo-Irish girl. Lois Farquar, nineteen years old and orphaned she lives in a grand old house with her Aunt Myra and Uncle Richard. Lois is lost. She is batted about by her relations like a tennis ball. The interi ...more
Liz
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
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Bettie


http://youtu.be/6EDmYfR9R5E

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 ho
...more
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Reading 1001: The Last September - Bowen 18 21 Sep 29, 2016 02:13PM  

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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.

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