Lisa's Reviews > The Heat Of The Day

The Heat Of The Day by Elizabeth Bowen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die, elizabeth-bowen

"They were the creatures of history, whose coming together was of a nature possible in no other day - the day was inherent in the nature."

This novel reads like a riddle. What am I? Am I a spy thriller? Am I historical fiction? Am I a love story? A character study? An experimental mix of all those things?

As a plot, I suspected I wouldn't like it, and I was wrong. A two-faced spy in wartime London, working for the enemy - Nazi Germany? How could I possibly find anything likable in his character, feel with him when his lover despairs of him? Well, I could. As Elizabeth Bowen puts it in the beginning, the characters in her story are "impossible" from a literary standpoint - for they ought to be credible above all. They are not. They engage in their own ideas of the universe, and from their individual perspective, they make sense.

And as a reader, I follow the changing rules of the fiction and the history of the time: and I find myself smiling at the cunning of the locked-away "mad" people, at the naive "trust" of spies, at the unlikely allegiance one feels with the random "minor" characters who walk London's streets with just the same amount of life and passion as the major players of the show. Being pregnant when your husband has been away in the war for years is a plot in itself, and the solutions to the problem may vary. Sometimes chance plays into your hands - while at other times, it plays against you. If it plays, that is.

A story dominated by private beliefs and worries, it nonetheless uses the impressive backdrop of world war news to structure the plot and put the characters' issues into perspective:

"The headlines got that over for you in half a second, deciding for you every event's importance by the size of the print."

Occasionally, the characters find themselves to be newsworthy - thus seeing themselves in touch with the bigger picture of which they are part, and to which they wear matching behaviours and attitudes, whether they like it or not. In the artistic composition of wartime London life, each shade has its own place in the slowly evolving painting, and each situation adds to the contrast and nuance of the whole.

So what is it, then? This enigmatic, yet so outspoken and modern novel? What is it?

"Eloquently, she answered nothing whatever, not even looking up."

The eloquent silence in the novel came in response to the eternal question:

"You love me?"

To which the reader answers:

"Yes."
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Reading Progress

January 14, 2018 – Started Reading
January 14, 2018 – Shelved
January 14, 2018 – Shelved as: 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die
January 14, 2018 – Shelved as: elizabeth-bowen
January 14, 2018 –
page 109
33.13% "Wartime London

"These unknown dead reproached those left living not by their own death,which might any night be shared, but by their unknownness, which could not be mended now. Who had the right to mourn them, not having cared that they had lived."

"
January 22, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala And as a reader, I follow the changing rules of the fiction and the history of the time

That's it! That's what we've got to do!
And how great when it turns out to be worth it.


message 2: by Steven (new) - added it

Steven Godin This is probably my Bowen starting point, even more so now. Whenever that days arises, I look forward to it!


Violet wells Hooray! So glad you loved this, Lisa. One thing of interest i learned while recently reading her letters was how vehemently she and her lover (the inspiration for Robert in this novel) loathed communism which maybe explained why she made him spy for the Nazis and not the Russians. She wanted Robert to be a faithful depiction of her lover. Of course the implication is, he was more sympathetic to fascism than communism which I sensed was true of both of them. I didn't much like her as an individual after reading her letters but will always love her as a writer.


Lisa Fionnuala wrote: "And as a reader, I follow the changing rules of the fiction and the history of the time

That's it! That's what we've got to do!
And how great when it turns out to be worth it."


Indeed, Fionnuala! In this case, I followed one of your Bowen reviews, picked the only one available in my city bookstore, and let myself be dragged in. Of course I have ordered a whole bunch of Bowens now to have company for this one!


message 5: by Kalliope (last edited Jan 22, 2018 10:21PM) (new) - added it

Kalliope Lisa, you have written a perfect invitation to this book... I will certainly visit it...I had already marked it but had forgotten about it.


Lisa Steven wrote: "This is probably my Bowen starting point, even more so now. Whenever that days arises, I look forward to it!"

Starting point is just what it is, Steven! I just decided to go on a Bown binge this year after the first taste of her work.


message 7: by Dolors (new)

Dolors "Sometimes chance plays into your hands - while at other times, it plays against you. If it plays, that is."

So nicely put, Lisa. You preserve all the mystery and allure of this novel and make it shine. Still haven't read Bowen and you have convinced me that maybe I should start with this book...


Lisa Violet wrote: "Hooray! So glad you loved this, Lisa. One thing of interest i learned while recently reading her letters was how vehemently she and her lover (the inspiration for Robert in this novel) loathed comm..."

I am so happy to hear you had the same experience, Violet! I need to read her letters as well to see where she is coming from.


Lisa Kalliope wrote: "Lisa, you have written a perfect invitation to this book... I will certainly visit it...I had already marked it but had forgotten about it."

I hope you will, Kalliope! It was a pleasant surprise for me, and my very first experience with Bowen.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Marita wrote: "And this reader loved the review!"

So pleased to hear that, Marita!


message 11: by Fran (new)

Fran Awesome review, Lisa. I think this book will be a keeper. Thank you!


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Dolors wrote: ""Sometimes chance plays into your hands - while at other times, it plays against you. If it plays, that is."

So nicely put, Lisa. You preserve all the mystery and allure of this novel and make it ..."


Thank you, Dolors! This was my starting point with Bowen, and it certainly made me want to discover more.


message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Fran wrote: "Awesome review, Lisa. I think this book will be a keeper. Thank you!"

Thank you somuch, Fran!


message 14: by Aneela (new)

Aneela ♒the_mystique_reader♒ Terrific review Lisa


message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Aneela wrote: "Terrific review Lisa"

Thank you, Aneela!


message 16: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro Superb, Lisa!


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Kevin wrote: "Superb, Lisa!"

Thank you, Kevin!


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