I've enjoyed some of Elizabeth Bowen's short stories so much that I've been keen on reading the novel that many consider to be her best, The Heat of the Day. Although Stella, the main character, flashes back to the Blitz and September 1940, the action takes place two years later, when London was not under bombardment.
I very much appreciated Bowen's exquisite rendering of setting throughout the novel. Mood and intricately detailed atmospheric elements enhance the suspense of the storyline, particularly the dark nights of the blackout.
The Heat of the Day would be a rich novel for group discussion. Stella is one of the most inscrutable characters I've ever encountered in fiction. What are her motivations for the things she does? With each of her significant actions, I found myself continuously trying to puzzle her out, and I must conclude that I don't understand her, perhaps because I've never met anyone even remotely like her. (?) I'd be fascinated to hear what other readers make of her. Bowen, the artist of nuanced characterization that she is, did not help me out, of course. Harrison makes a fascinating scoundrel, but I found his and Stella's conversations, sometimes many pages long, left me asking, "Whatever are they going on about?" Roderick, Stella's son, is the only character who is straightforward and without guile, which comes as a relief in this novel where no person can be known for sure and most are sinister, each in their own way.
One of the very few advantages of having broken my leg has been the opportunity to catch up on a few classic movies I've missed over the years. This morning I saw the incomparable My Dinner with Andre, which was, to use a dreadfully outdated term, mind-blowing. Equally excellent were Al Pacino's bravura performance in Scent of a Woman and, to a lesser degree, Robert DeNiro's in Taxi Driver. I watched again, after twenty plus years, Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Amazing!
Rachel Klein: The Moth Diaries (2002)
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