The House in Paris

The House in Paris One Of Elizabeth Bowen S Most Artful And Psychologically Acute Novels, The House In Paris Is A Timeless Masterpiece Of Nuance And Construction, And Represents The Very Best Of Bowen S Celebrated Work When Eleven Year Old Henrietta Arrives At The Fishers Well Appointed House In Paris, She Is Prepared To Spend Her Day Between Trains Looked After By An Old Friend Of Her Grandmother S Little Does Henrietta Know What Fascinations The Fisher House Itself Contains Along With Secrets That Have The Potential To Topple A Marriage And Redeem The Life Of A Peculiar Young Boy By The Time Henrietta Leaves The House That Evening, She Is In Possession Of The Kind Of Grave Knowledge That Is Usually Reserved Only For Adults

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

⚡ [PDF] ✍ The House in Paris By Elizabeth Bowen ✵ –
  • Paperback
  • 269 pages
  • The House in Paris
  • Elizabeth Bowen
  • English
  • 20 April 2019
  • 9780385721257

10 thoughts on “The House in Paris

  1. says:

    After I had devoured all Virginia Woolf s books, Elizabeth Bowen was my next major crush as a teenager I think it was her poetic evocation of place that thrilled me the most It helped me get out of my narcissistic glass jar and connect with my surroundings I took notice of the world and its detail Bowen added a new depth and delight to my visual response of the external world Many of her novels use the regency houses around Regent s Park for a setting and the park acquired an almost magical dimension for me every time I went there It still does now It s as if throughout this novel Bowen s sensibility is heightened to the pitch of a lonely woman in a big house who hears what sounds like an intruder downstairs in the middle of the night Inanimate objects become animated and not only contribute to the tension of every passing moment but define it The way light falls or dwindles becomes a coded text of prophecy AS Byatt says in the introduction that she had initially dismissed this novel as too much a work of fine drawn sensibility But the novel hinges on a moment of barely plausible melodrama so the fine drawn sensibility is absolutely necessary to sustain not only its tension but its credibility Both houses in this novel are ruled by vampiric matriarchs, one, you might say, dressed in pink, the other in black Interestingly you won t find much feminism in EB s novels Women often maintain a tyrannical reign of emotional censorship in her novels Husbands are reduced to the equivalent of head butlers, emasculated, never speaking out of turn Karen, the heroine, has such a man lined up as her future husband Her mother runs a regimented house where deep feeling is considered an affront to good manners In such houses it s a struggle for children to achieve identity This is well dramatised in the first part of the novel where two children struggle to assert themselves in a house dominated by the overpowering Mme Fisher, aided and abetted by her subservient daughter, Naomi Leopold is waiting for his mother to arrive He has never knowingly seen his mother and knows little of her history Part two tells us the story of how Leopold got to be born Karen, engaged to be married, meets up with Naomi and her fianc in London Max is a prot g of Mme Fisher who Karen was in love with when she stayed with the Fishers as a young girl She and Max begin an affair which has to be kept secret from her family Only now does she realise how oppressive is the emotional regime of her home imposed by her mother Bowen s depiction of young love in this novel is brilliant because her lovers are intelligent and can see through to the other side of all the exalting adrenalin They are not fooled by the joyful anarchy of their bodies They know they are committing an aberration which will bring two houses down Each of the three parts of this novel gets better The first part when the two children arrive at the spooky house in Paris is perhaps a little over laboured The second part, a flashback in time, is a fantastic dramatization of an illicit affair, and the third part when everything comes to a head is the best of all Bowen doesn t write naturalistic dialogue, often used as a criticism against her by readers perhaps used to reading a commercial form of fiction Her characters, even the children, are all as eloquent as Bowen herself and their speech patterns blend seamlessly into her mannered prose style The marvel though is that her children are completely convincing as children 4 stars.

  2. says:

    The station is sounding, resounding, full of steam caught on light and arches of dark air a temple to the intention to go somewhere A temple to the intention to go somewhere.This novel is a temple to the intention to love someone And like any journey, the journey of love contains strange adventures, unforeseen encounters, unasked for experiences, hidden effects and secret complications.Travelling in time, the reader meets present and past, and acknowledges the deep emotions that result in Leopold.Leopold himself travels from Italy to Paris to discover his English past, even though the journey does not lead to the encounter he expects Thus the expectation remains the sole experience, and Leopold remains in charge of his imagination, as reality does not destroy it.The reader also travels between children s and grown ups perspectives, and is able to discover the transition from one level of human understanding to another Like a station, the adolescent mind of Henrietta, part of the story for a single day by a chance break on her journey, picks up fragments of lives and adds them to her own impression while her travelling self adds to others life log books as well.A story of passion and heartbreak, of sexual power and destruction without ever being voyeuristic, it is deeply erotic Leopold is the living personification of passion spent and lost, and his future, standing at the station in the end, is just as open as his mother s was before her path was chosen.Bravo, Bowen This is life.

  3. says:

    Elizabeth Bowen is good with brackets The opening scene of one of her books can sometimes seem unrelated to what follows but when you read on, an echo of the beginning often closes the story, and you finally understand how neatly she has tied the many wide ranging episodes together.In this book, there is not one but a series of bracketed episodes, each opening further sections of back story Then she brings us back in stages to the beginning So neat.

  4. says:

    I tried, man, I really tried to get through this fucking thing Got about 3 4 and my friend asked what it was about I told her, and she said, That sounds really good So I slammed it closed and said Take it.

  5. says:

    I bought the 1940 s penguin edition of this book which is really appealing in its simplicity No gimmicks, bells or whistles It has a minimalist post war cover and the most animated looking penguin logo ever In hindsight perhaps the austerity was a nod to the emotional austerity shielded between the cover Slightly less appealing is the back page with the author photograph While I have no doubt that Elizabeth Bowen was probably a delightful woman, the photographer has managed to catch her in a pose which has left her looking like Aunt Sally from the Wurzel Gummidge TV series which was probably not the look she was going for I like to think she was aiming for worldly and erudite but falling wide of the mark.I chose the House in Paris from the 1001 books list based on the name alone, as I knew nothing of the plot and being incredibly lazy did not bother to investigate prior to purchase About Paris hmmm, sounds lovely It s not a lively book, nor is it particularly romantic or evocative of any kind of Parisian joie de vivre, and for the majority of the time I was reading I kept imagining all the characters with those impossibly clipped BBC accents that were so prevalent in the 40 s and 50 s amongst the upper middle classes if you don t know what I mean listen to the Queens speech Needless to say this didn t help me to take them or their dilemmas seriously I disliked Leopold and Henrietta and found Charles the plush monkey who was only a toy to be a far animated and likeable character As for the adults who were responsible for the accidental conception of Leopold I found their story to be the most emotionally neutered love story I ve ever encountered Max and Karen plan their lovers tryst with stiff upper lips and military precision leaving the story with the residual romance of an abandoned fish supper on a wet weekend in Barry Island I suppose the saving grace is Madame Fisher a sinister corpse like, bed bound figure who despite never making it past 15 degrees from the prone position, still manages to meddle in everyones affairs Bowen has created a memorable villain here who knew an old biddy in a bed jacket could be so scary

  6. says:

    Elegant and Melodramatic This is both a very elegant and a very melodramatic novel A S Byatt has it right, but her introduction, from which this comes, should absolutely not be read before the book itself More a personal account of her own various experiences with the novel than an aid for the first time reader, it manages to give away every important surprise But elegant and melodramatic, yes This was my return also, to a novel which I first read in 2005, and this time I skipped straight to the first chapter To be softly seduced by Bowen s elegance, which I can t remember noticing before Then drawn into the passionate but off kilter romance of the middle section Then knocked for a loop by what I was glad to see Byatt nail as melodrama, when I finally read her so called introduction as a retrospective guide.Elegance first, starting with the novel s structure It is in three sections, called respectively The Present, The Past, and The Present Henrietta Mountjoy, a young girl of eleven or so, is looked after by some friends of her grandmother s, the Fishers, while passing through Paris on the way to the Riviera As things turn out, she does not leave the quiet house of the old lady and her daughter until it is time for her evening train But she does meet there a boy of about her own age, L opold, who has come to Paris to meet his birth mother for the first time The middle section will reveal who L opold is, and explain some of curious tensions that seem to revolve around his presence The fact that these mysteries are observed by a sensitive but innocent girl with no possible understanding of adult sexuality provides a teasingly oblique perspective which is surely a large part of the elegance Byatt compares Henrietta favorably to the title character in Henry James What Maisie Knew but then I love Maisie, and am not prepared to exalt one little girl over the other.Also elegant exquisitely so is Bowen s prose and social observation This is a book that waits a long time before things begin to happen But you do not mind, because there is such pleasure in reading Bowen s descriptions that it seems almost a shame to replace their infinite potential by mere action Here are three examples, all from the second part, whose heroine is a young woman called Karen Michaelis How beautifully Bowen captures the moneyed liberalism of her parents Her parents saw little reason to renew their ideas, which had lately been ahead of their time and were still not out of date. Early in the section Karen goes to visit an aunt in Ireland, only to come to the gradual realization that she is terminally ill Here, Bowen s use of offstage music is a foreshadowing of what she would later do in To the North Up there in the drawing room, Aunt Violet began playing Schubert notes came stepping lightly onto the moment in which Karen realized she was going to die Phrases of music formed and hung in the garden, where violently green young branches flamed in the spring dusk A hurt earthly smell rose from the piteous roots of the daisies and those small wounds in the turf that her uncle, not speaking, kept pressing at with his toe Down there below the terrace, the harbour locked in green headlands lay glassy under the cold sky No one familiar in Karen s life had died yet the scene round her looked at once momentous and ghostly, as in that light that sometimes comes before storms. And here is Bowen s penetrating analysis of first love, a little tongue in cheek but still penetrating She thought, young girls like the excess of any quality Without knowing, they want to suffer, to suffer they must exaggerate they like to have loud chords struck on them Loving art better than life, they need men to be actors only an actor moves them, with his telling smile, undomestic, out of touch with the everyday that they dread They love to enjoy love as a system of doubts and shocks They are right not seeking husbands yet, they have no reason to see love socially This natural fleshly protest against good taste is broken down soon enough their natural love of the cad is outwitted by their mothers. The long middle section of the book, which could almost stand on its own as a separate novella, shows Karen poised between the two kinds of love the doubts and shocks of the first and the social propriety of the second So long as Bowen maintains the suspense, her control is perfect But now, well past the midpoint of the novel, she is split between two not entirely compatible directions One is action the other, perhaps as the result of action, is self examination In the techniques she uses for the latter, you are suddenly aware of her debt to Virginia Woolf, but I don t think she entirely succeeds in her own terms there is an artifice that fits ill with the modulated naturalism of the rest of the book And in this context, the startling bits of action I am thinking especially of L opold s father do indeed seem, in Byatt s word, melodramatic I found myself thinking of her most obvious successor, Anita Brookner, who writes about many of the same subjects and settings with perhaps less flair, but even greater economy of action Brookner at her best is elegance personified, perfect in her control of the emotional temperature But then, by daring less than Bowen, she also misses the chance of being a novelist of the very first rank, which Elizabeth Bowen surely is.I said that the section called The Past might almost stand on its own So why not let it do so The Paris house is not the locus of any of the real action, but it does frame the narrative Karen s story means so much to us after the many hints sensed, but never grasped, by Henrietta and L opold in the first part And the long central section ends without all its issues being fully resolved The last 50 pages, headed once again The Present, cannot tie up all the loose ends the time gap between sections makes that impossible But there is a welcome hint of a resolution with L opold Meanwhile Henrietta takes her train to the South unchanged except for the seeds of adult knowledge now planted inside her So the book ends in ellipses the elegance in that is to treasure.

  7. says:

    In the first rank of the brilliant women writers, asserts the New York Times blurb, offensively Actually Bowen is in the first rank of the brilliant writers Her craftsmanship is exquisite, she is masterful at having her characters express the perfect emotion, and if there s a writer of adult novels who can write from a child s vantage point better, I don t know who it is The House in Paris is divided into three sections The first and last, titled The Present, take place over the course of one day Eleven year old Henrietta is stopping over in the Paris home of Miss and Mme Fisher, family friends, on her way to live with her grandmother in the south of France Coincidentally a nine year old boy named Leopold is at the Fisher house the same day in order to be introduced to his birth mother, whom he has never met By the end of the first section we know quite a few intriguing spoilers relating these characters, and a terrible sadness descends Yet the tension in the novel never abates, as the second section The Past goes ten years back to introduce us to Leopold s mother Karen, his father, and reintroduce their mutual friend Miss Fisher This section is told from Karen s point of view and is set in London, Ireland, and France We then return to the present and the Fisher house, where yet surprising plotting unfolds.Some of my favorite passages The inside of the house with its shallow door panels, lozenge door knobs, polished brass ball on the end of the banisters, stuffy red matt paper with stripes to artfully shadowed as to appear bars was than simply novel to Henrietta, it was antagonistic, as though it had been invented to put her out She felt the house was acting, nothing seemed to be natural objects did not wait to be seen but came crowding in on her, each with what amounted to its aggressive cry.Leopold lives unhappily in Italy with his adoptive family Spezia offered Leopold almost nothing his precocity devoured itself there, rejecting the steep sunny coast and nibbling blue edge of the sea that had drowned Shelley His spirit became crustacean under douches of culture and mild philosophic chat from his Uncle Dee, who was cultured rather than erudite.An excerpt from a letter in which Leopold s adoptive parents explain the delicate way they are raising him We do not consider him ripe for direct sex instruction yet, though my husband is working towards this through botany and mythology When the revelation regarding himself must come, what better prototypes could he find than the Greek and other heroes, we feel His religious sense seems to be still dormant We are educating him on broad undenominational lines such as God is Love Leopold s birth mother, ten years in the past, visits relatives in County Cork Karen, her elbows folded on the deck rail, wanted to share with someone her pleasure in being alone this is the paradox of any happy solitude She had never landed at Cork, so this hill and that hill beyond were as unexpected as pictures at which you say Oh look Nobody was beside her to share the moment, which would have been imperfect with anyone else there.

  8. says:

    When I started this book, I wondered if I would make it to the end Everything seemed disjointed No one spoke or acted as real people spoke or acted at least not as I ve experienced them The children weren t really children the adultsnot sure what they were.Then I came to the middle section labeled The Past This section opened the book up for me, making the characters real, illuminating the author s choices for me even for the strange dialogue and monologue choices Everything else seemed to flow then Evil people were still evil, weak were still weak, foolish still foolish, but now I could see sense in the arc of the novel Reality didn t exist until after that middle section had been explained in my Paris world view Then there could be closure of sorts.So I will not give spoilers for the plotthe major points are there in the GR description This is not a book for everyone as plot is not going to carry the reader along There is a lot of talk So be ready for patient reading.3.5 to 3.75, rounded to 4

  9. says:

    I was not going to write a review just now just I was remined of a superb writing , of brilliant description of one young girl from upper class , her growing up into mature young woman, her coming into knowledge of sex and love , her power of knowing of other people s emotions, about true friendship, true love, mutual attraction and beyond all, frienship and true understanding The House in Paris has that power of the trigger , both emotionally and intellectually, growng up into the world, coming to tems That s past The present is waiting again in Paris, that house in Paris of two young creatures, Henriette and Leopold, both zoung and curious and afraind of being misunderstood Powerfully psychological, yet full of love, acceptance and hope Super Artistic and subtle New thoughts , new feelings and new age A novel so beautiful and moving about sincerity and character deep down onto one s soul

  10. says:

    But to be quite oneself one must first waste a little time What a coincidence I just stumbled onto this group at the precise moment I m reading The House in Paris In the 90s, I wrote my diss on Bowen and other neglected British women authors Olivia Manning, Storm Jameson, Antonia White, Betty Miller Jonathan s mother , Rebecca West , but mainly Bowen she was my portal into the work of these women writing in Woolf s shadow Last week, I reviewed Victoria Glendinning s biography of Bowen and was reminded that for all her resemblance to James, Bowen was an Impressionist, which approach Glendinning attributes in some degree to the fact that Bowen was extremely nearsighted and hated to wear her glasses Thus those long, blurry, inferential descriptions of landscapes and interiors, as well as the extremely detailed accounts of faces Max s, for instance As with James, the reader has to surrender to Bowen s primary sensibility of life with the lid on what s going on inside, what heated it, what s radiating unseen, how powerful those invisible, usually unconscious motives You have the easiest time if you just let her take you where she s going right down to the bone those moments when you suddenly find yourself trying to decode pronoun reference happen when you come up for air, try to frame what you re reading in some familiar shape You just get in your own way.That said, I must also confess that The House in Paris is the one of her novels I remembered having tried twice to get through and failing both times, chiefly because Henrietta and Leopold didn t seem like children but like miniature adults But this time, she got me with It is never natural for children to smile at each other Now I am loving what a workout she is And planning to reread several others, the obscure Eva Trout, To the North as well as my well worn favorites, The Heat of the Day and The Little Girls.P S The end is brilliant She earns everything I wouldn t spoil it for you even if I hated you.

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