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The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  314 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Widely known for her much-admired novels, including The Heat of the Day, The House in Paris, and The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen established herself in the front rank of the century's writers equally through her short fiction.
This collection brings together seventy-nine magnificent stories written over the course of four decades. Vividly featuring scenes of bomb-sc
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Hardcover, 784 pages
Published February 12th 1981 by Alfred A. Knopf
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3.98  · 
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 ·  314 ratings  ·  35 reviews


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Violet wells
My feeling is Elizabeth Bowen didn't have any kind of special talent for the short story which begs the question why did she write so many? (This book runs to 880 pages.) There was often the sense of a writer writing for the sake of it. The themes of the best stories here she dealt with much better in her novels. Perhaps the only exception are the stories she wrote during the war which would make a brilliant short collection. Otherwise we're treated to a lot of the social whimsy which also domin ...more
Jim
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I checked out Ms. Bowen on the reccomendation of whacked-out "manicstream" author D.F. Lewis. Her stories are nothing like Lewis' "high weird" nightmares, crawling with deformity, neologism and voodoo. And yet, there's a simmilarity in the way they dissect a peculiar British ennui. She does have at least one chilling ghost story to her credit ("The Demon Lover"), but mostly this is elegant, hyper-observant realism. I got about halfway through this tome before I had to return it to the library, v ...more
John Vanderslice
I have only recently begun to explore in any kind of depth the work of Elizabeth Bowen, and I'm frightened to think how it could have taken me so long. She is an absolute master. I especially appreciate her short stories--she wrote a great many of them--which are all little gems. Subtle, smart, amazingly crafty, and each demonstrating a very dry yet abiding sense of humor. She quietly pokes fun at a lot of her characters, but not so much so that we don't like them. Bowen certainly likes them, bu ...more
minnie
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This collection of short stories covers the early years,the twenties, and up to the post-war period.Elizabeth Bowen's world is one of uppers class routines, tea in the library, dressing for dinner, country house weekends.But her perceptive clever writing is about human relationships, the underlying feelings and the things that aren't said.In 'Making Arrangements' a deserted husband takes revenge on his wife through her dresses,

"Now looking down, he watched the dresses, tense with readiness to f
...more
Edward
Introduction

First Stories

--Breakfast
--Daffodils
--The Return
--The Confidante
--Requiescat
--All Saints
--The New House
--Lunch
--The Lover
--Mrs Windermere
--The Shadowy Third
--The Evil that Men Do --
--Sunday Evening
--Coming Home

The Twenties

--Ann Lee's
--The Parrot
--The Visitor
--The Contessina
--Human Habitation
--The Secession
--Making Arrangements
--The Storm
--Charity
--The Back Drawing-Room
--Recent Photograph
--Joining Charles
--The Jungle
--Shoes: An International Episode
--The Dancing-Mistress
--Aunt Tatt
...more
SarahC
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not read all of the stories in this collection -- I plan to savor them over time. This is a goldmine of beautiful short stories like I have not seen before. Elizabeth Bowen was a master of the short story as well as of longer fiction as well. She was an Anglo-Irish author who lived and wrote through many decades of the 2oth century. She lived through the changes and upheaval of the century and through much distress in her private life also. I can hardly compare her writing with that of an ...more
Yooperprof
Feb 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain, fiction
More "misses" than hits in this collection, though admittedly a number of stories are "near-misses," seeming _almost_ very good, but perhaps just a little too precious or "distilled".

I thought the best stories in the collection were the ghost tales and the ones set in London during World War II. The pain of memory and the ache of lonely human souls are Ms. Bowen's great themes, and when she is good, she is very very good indeed. "The Demon Lover" and "Ivy Gripped the Steps" are among the very be
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M.h.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not really a short-stories person, but these are great. Though gloomy and unnerving at times --which made me decide to read them in batches -- I think the writing is beautiful, especially when it comes down to atmosphere.
Susan
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read again and again. Marvelous. The book fell apart.
Pam Hasker
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and haunting.
Clare Harvey
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this fourteen years ago during a long spell in hospital, and decided to revisit to get me through my worst cold of the winter so far - any excuse for a spot of reading in bed!
I have fallen in love with Bowen's beautiful prose and stories that somehow manage to be both acerbic and poignant.
Cabiria Aquarius
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
These short stories were very detailed and pretty interesting. Every time I took a second to think I was amazed at how delicate and fragile the writing seemed and how detailed it was. Elizabeth Bowen was a talented writer. I could imagine these stories weren’t stories but real people experiencing real things. But they were just stories. Are they? Is there a such thing as just a story?
MH
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Almost eighty short stories spanning four decades. Bowen writes with precision and an eye for telling details, largely of domestic spaces where the closely-described settings reflect their inhabitants, often couples who, through culture, custom, or cowardice, can't be completely honest with one another or themselves; children who are trying to make sense of their world or each other; and women, some selfish, some sweet, who commit small (and large) cruelties or find themselves trapped and lonely ...more
Judith Shadford
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a huge range of stories to read chronologically, from the London vicinity of the 1920's through post-war Ireland--from Barbara Pym-type stories where almost nothing happens, but the atmosphere is so minutely revealed the the moments of change among the people is almost incidental--to ghost stories, where maybe, the story is about the living and maybe not. She is wholly lyrical in her descriptions, but in an extra dry brut champagne fashion. Zero sentimentality, even in the descriptions of c ...more
Joey
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that for the first time in a long time, I didn't finish the book I was reading. I got through about 1/3rd of this 800 page anthology of an entire career's worth of short stories. It's not that the stories were bad; I liked several very much, particularly the tale of a bitter brother who has settled into his life with his sister serving as a wife, only to witness her become engaged surprisingly, as she was in her middle age and he was close minded etc. etc.

The writing of the stori
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Karen Barnacle
These are small, sharp and glittering stories which capture the pettiness and cruelty of the upper classes in the early 20th century. It took a little while to adjust to the style and vocabulary of that era (much as it does when reading Jane Austen), but the stories really are worth this (minor) effort. There is poignancy, comedy and malice - often in the same story. They are short - sometimes only a couple of pages and the slip down like fresh oysters. I am looking forward to reading more Eliza ...more
123bex
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-shelf, school
I had to read this for my MA and I am not sure I shall ever forgive the faculty. Two stars because she was a woman, she was queer, and the sheer body of work is impressive. But dear god, the tedium! Story after story about rich white people fannying about over made-up problems and never saying what they mean.

I don't know if these stories have just dated terribly, I am deficient in some way or they are just hands-down bad. Either way, I'm deliriously glad to be done with them.

The ghost stories a
...more
Ruth
Jun 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this was a library book, I returned it before really digesting it. I read about three of the stories. I find Bowen a a great writer and I will probably buy this book so I can properly enjoy it. Her style is detailed narratives and long paragraphs. it is the kind of writing that you like to savor rather than rush through to find out what happens...
Cynthia
My paperback copy from the 80s has disintegrated along with the glue, and long before I got to all the stories. The handful of supernatural stories such as "The Demon Lover" are really wonderful. I'm too stubborn and completist to give up on the mess so I'm working through this a chunk of pages at a time.
Rose
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, especially those with a love of learning new words in the English language!
Brilliantly written - Clever and witty use of astoundly brilliant language. I always read Elizabeth Bowen's short stories with a dictionary by my side! If I could learn to write like her, I'd never put my pencil down..!
Kristy
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't really like short stories. So why on earth I felt compelled to finish 800 pages of them by one author I do not know. Some of them were quite good (The Confidante) but in general there's just not enough meat in a short story for me to really love them.
Eric
Aug 19, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The first few pages of "The Disinherited" sold me on this.
Jenni
Jun 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shortstories
I haven't read all of these yet (I've been reading a few here and there), but the ones I have gotten to have been zingers. Thanks for the rec, Paula!
Mo
Jun 12, 2013 marked it as read-a-few-pages-just-not-for-me  ·  review of another edition
It would be unfair of me to rate these stories, because I only read a couple of them. They were not for me.
Ellen
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Bowen is a genius, evoking place and time and mood - this is the sort of anthology to take along to a desert island. No end to the pleasures.
Nikki
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: old ladies
this book was one of those books of short stories. a couple of them were okay, but i couldnt follow most of them. it was kind of boring.
Kelly
Hmmm...I seem to be on a short story jaunt.
Well, it's better than a history-book-that's-actually-fiction jaunt. Em-barressing!
Moira Russell
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She is a terribly underrated writer, especially her short stories.
Sora O'Doherty
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Bowen was a master of the short story.
Beth Shields-Szostak
1st edition US
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Story selection 2 3 Feb 25, 2013 10:01PM  
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Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.