To the North

To the North A Young Woman S Secret Love Affair Leads To A Violent And Tragic Act In One Of Elizabeth Bowen S Most Acclaimed Novels To The North Centers On Two Young Women In S London, The Recently Widowed Cecilia Summers And Her Late Husband S Sister, Emmeline Drawn To Each Other In The Wake Of Their Loss, The Two Set Up House Together And Gradually Become Entwined Than They Know But The Comfortable Refuge They Have Made Is A House Built On Sand Both Realize It Cannot Last While Cecilia, Capricious And Unsure If She Can Really Love Anyone, Moves Reluctantly Toward A Second Marriage, Emmeline, A Gentle And Independent Soul, Is Surprised To Find The Calm Tenor Of Her Life Disturbed For The First Time By Her Attraction To The Predatory Mark Linkwater Bowen S Psychological Acuity Is On Full Display In A Conclusion That Plumbs The Depths Of This Seemingly Detached Young Woman In A Single, Life Shattering Moment

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

❮Read❯ ➱ To the North Author Elizabeth Bowen –
  • Paperback
  • 320 pages
  • To the North
  • Elizabeth Bowen
  • English
  • 08 June 2019
  • 9781400096558

10 thoughts on “To the North

  1. says:

    It s bad enough being a woman , exclaimed Cecilia with passion, but I can t think why girls of that age were ever born I wonder what it does to my confused mind to read Jane Austen, Christa Wolf and Elizabeth Bowen alternately over the course of this strange year Looking at the condition humaine, or rather the condition f minine, through the eyes of strongwilled, highly intelligent writers describing the tempora and s they experience, I am supposed to open my eyes to the peculiarities of my own time and place.And In a way, nothing ever changes, I say, quoting an ancient philosopher, only to retort to myself that nothing ever stays the same either, quoting another thinker Certain elements of women s lives drastically changed between Austen and Bowen, and Bowen s heroines Cecilia and Emmeline move in a world which offers them infinitely space than Fanny ever found at Mansfield Park, for example They can drive, they can choose which parties to go to, they even get away with having a lover and not getting married.And yet, so little changed in the emotional situation of women during the century that separates Bowen from Austen It took another century, and writers of the calibre of Christa Wolf, to fully establish intellectual equality in at least part of liberal society Christa Wolf s daughters do not suffer from the same kind of humiliation that ultimately drives Bowen s Emmeline over the edge as she is stuck between her modern way of life and her Austen esque definition of female propriety and honour Thou shalt marry Or die in the attempt.To The North is a novel of movement a geographical, social, emotional perpetuum mobile In the end, the speed of life gets out of control, and the inexperienced modern human being crashesRecommended for its exquisite prose, its truer than life characters, its snapshots of modernity in the making, and its accurate rendering of the eternal dilemma of the good girl.Funnily, I believe we owe it to the crash landings of countless Emmelines that we have freedom of choice today Obviously, we still carry the condition humaine on our shoulders, though Only freedom FROM thought would liberate us from ourselves And that can hardly be desirable.

  2. says:

    This is very much Elizabeth Bowen finding her voice and feet as a novelist In her first novel, The Hotel, she pilfered and employed, far less successfully, the multiple perspective Virginia Woolf deploys in the second half of The Voyage Out The identity of Woolf s heroine is thus composed of what various people think about her, which was Woolf s way of exploring the bottomless mystery of identity Needless to say, Bowen s heroine is far less interesting than Woolf s so as a technique with Bowen it doesn t cut much ice To the North shares the same fidgety perspective except, unlike with The Voyage Out, there s no real purpose to it It s like, for the time being, the only way she knew how to construct a novel was to flit from one perspective to another without having full command of motive The narrative keeps losing focus, like someone who begins talking without quite knowing what she is going to say Not surprisingly, the quality of the prose also declines when she s busying herself with characters who have little dramatic purpose The main characters here are all rough hewn prototypes of characters Bowen was to create with far power, artistry and lucidity further down the line the innocent waif sowing discord, the charming rake who knows no loyalty, the world weary social butterfly, the interfering sexless older woman, the benign old gent who exudes the comfort of a hot water bottle In short, there s a lot of brilliant writing but there s also some overwrought rather vacuous digressions Better than The Hotel but falls short of her best work But then she was only thirty two when she wrote it It s got an average rating here of 3.69 which I d say is pretty spot on.

  3. says:

    Two WomenI have praised the beautiful Anchor editions of Elizabeth Bowen before for instance, The House in Paris or her masterpiece The Death of the Heart , and this one, with its luscious portrait of a society beauty on the cover, is no exception But back cover blurbs can be deceiving For instance A young woman s secret love affair leads to a violent and tragic act in one of Elizabeth Bowen s most acclaimed novels True enough as far as it goes, but it totally hides the fact that, for most of its length, To the North 1932 plays as a social comedy in the manner of Jane Austen Consider this sentence The other guests for the week end were a young married couple, the Blighs, who might, Lady Waters was certain, still save their marriage if they could get right away from people and talk things out, and a young man called Farquharson who had just broken off his engagement on Lady Waters advice.How deliciously the added detail about Farquharson casts doubt on Lady Waters view of the poor Blighs Contrast the impression of Lady Waters husband, virtually channeling the whole line of not quite in touch Austen father figures Those young Blighs seem devoted, never apart it s quite pretty to see them Read slowly enough to savor, this is a very funny book.Bowen s subjects, like Austen s, are typically young women in adolescence or early adulthood But, as Henry James did in The Portrait of a Lady, she takes them out of their domestic surroundings and thrusts them into modern society Bowen gives us two young ladies a young widow, Cecilia Summers, and her sister in law Emmeline, an independent businesswoman who runs a travel bureau travel by train, air, or auto plays a significant part in the novel Although close friends, the two are strongly contrasted Cecilia stylish, but emotionally exhausted and barely able to cope with practical matters Emmeline supremely competent, but shy and emotionally naive For most of the book, very little happens, but we can deduce a great deal, in Jamesian fashion, by reading in between the lines of what does That affair, for instance, is implied only through hints By the end of her career, as in The Heat of the Day 1949 , Bowen would describe sexual relationships unambiguously if not in detail, but in this relatively early novel 1932 she is almost as reticent as James himself In both books, she is less interested in the facts of a relationship than its ultimate effects.Bowen does a lot by indirect means The book is full of landscape descriptions, evocative in themselves, and even so as a reflection of character A man in a bad mood walks in a suburban park Then someone s wife opened a cold piano she tinkled, she tippetted, she struck false chords and tried them again God knows what she thought she was doing The notes fell on his nerves like the drops of condensed mist all round on the clammy beech branches.Contrast his optimistic lover The glades of St John s Wood were still at their brief summer walls gleamed through thickets, red may was clotted and crimson, laburnums showered the pavements, smoke had not yet tarnished a leaf The heights of this evening had an airy superurbanity one heard the ping of tennis balls, a man wheeled a barrow of pink geraniums, someone was practising the violin, sounds and late sunshine sifted through the fresh trees.This feeling for ambiance is essential to the bookend chapters that frame To the North and give the book its title two journeys, both at night a train trip from Milan to Calais in the rain, and a car drive northwards out of London They balance one another with a symmetry that holds the entire novel between them, brilliantly contrasting the two central women, and answering the earlier comedy with seriousness The novel may have flaws it flags about half way through, and the men are less well realized than the women but it remains a penetrating study of the interwar period when many women were looking to define themselves other than through traditional society expectations And when Bowen pulls everything together in the last fifty pages, the result is quite simply magnificent.

  4. says:

    Dammit I wanted to give this book five stars Maybe I wanted something unreasonable, but I m irritated anyway because I didn t get it I wanted view spoiler Bowen to find a way for Emmeline to survive Why does the strong, independent female character who does not get married always have to die in the end hide spoiler

  5. says:

    I ve been diving pretty deep into science fiction and fantasy the last little while, and so reading To the North was a little like exercising unused muscles not genre, not recent mainstream fiction, something a little older and differently paced, with nothing of the fantastic about it It s a welcome break and a needed reminder of what books outside my favourite genres are which is why I always try to keep a couple of classics essential book lists on my radar Note The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  6. says:

    Sisters in law, sharing a house but living fairly separate but overlapping lives Lots of movement and travel allusions, though not much actually happens even travel The usual brilliant, caustic and slightly surreal analogies.

  7. says:

    Leisurely and enjoyable Also much comic than I expected Lady Waters is an amazing creation.

  8. says:

    I probably would have given it 5 stars if it weren t for the ending, which I hated Was it a clich at the time, I wonder, or is she part of the process of making it one I don t know, but I don t like it To the North is essentially a pair of love stories that of two women, Emmeline and Cecilia, and their respective partners The ups and downs of their interactions are not at all like those of typical love stories, and it s ultimately very hard to say whether the phenomenon described is love, or whether the relationships are successful, or even, what is really happening at all The you think about it, the murkier it seems, which is, I think, rather brilliant I liked the book mainly because I found Emmeline strangely riveting Ready to listen but astonishingly unresponsive, in love maybe but uncommitted, abstract but somehow real she s just a really interesting character study And there s the language Bowen s prose is basically perfect, as far as I m concerned She gazed at Julian, wishing he were a clock It s an absolute delight I reread the few paragraphs about a bus on pg 46 three or four times, just reveling in how fantastically written they are.

  9. says:

    Kind of strange at the start, and for about half the book, I thought this was just light drawing room comedy Then I noticed it was getting a bit darker Everyone felt completely alone, all while pretending to be surrounded by people they loved Then it got a bit darker again the main character is called inhuman, and I noticed that yes, indeed, what I d thought was whimsy could be interpreted as her being detached and emotionally non responsive Then it got a bit darker again, when the main character s young man is obviously seen to be an a hole And then the final chapter basically says look at yourself modern world You suck You suck so much that you make people go crazy and drive their cars into oncoming traffic At the start, I thought, nice and light, three stars The middle two quarters I thought, this is really great, five stars The ending s so oddly tacked on great in its own way, but so cut off from the novel that I came back to four stars Well worth reading, though not as good as The Heat of the Day.

  10. says:

    It took me several chapters to make sure whether they did or did not do it, and by that time, the narrative, previously pleasantly uneventful, became wholly preoccupied with matters of Capital M Morality Bottom line this novel aged gracefully, but not well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *