The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat hosted a group read of The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen. Today it’s time to discuss the novel. When I read the back cover I was excited to read this one:

It is wartime London, and the carelessness of people with no future flows through the evening air. Stella discovers that her lover Robert is suspected of selling information to the enemy. Harrison, the British intelligence agent on his trail, wants to bargain—the price for his silence is Stella herself. Slowly, the flimsy structures of Stella’s life begin to break into pieces.

One reviewer claimed that the novel “fills the reader’s heart with dread.”

However, I didn’t find this to be the case. I expected the novel to be a gritty spy story. Halfway through I had to get that notion out of my head otherwise I wouldn’t like the book at all. For me, I focused on the descriptions of London during the war. These I enjoyed. As for the story, I wasn’t all that fond of it. First, I didn’t find the spy aspect all that gripping. In the beginning, when Harrison reveals that Robert is a spy to Stella I expected the story to revolve around Stella finding out if the accusation was true or not. Instead, the novel goes on several different tangents and to be honest, I wasn’t sure why. My second problem with the novel was Bowen’s writing. I found her sentences clunky and difficult to decipher. For example, I opened the book to a random page and selected a sentence.

The suspense, a suspense so long anticipated, in which she waited to hear which handle the child would turn was, now it came to the moment, more than half fictitious, after all neither real nor deep.

Sentences like these I have to read and reread. And if the novel is a spy thriller, stopping to reread something takes away the fear and anticipation for what is going to happen. It breaks the rhythm.

I won’t say that I hated the novel. Like I said, I enjoyed the descriptions of wartime London. Bowen’s writing wasn’t the easiest for me, but I did enjoy pushing my comfort zone some. Mostly though I was let down about what I expected and what I read. Maybe I missed all the subtext that included the suspense. That’s entirely possible. And it’s also possible that some will love this novel. It just didn’t work for me. Please click on this link to find the other discussions on this novel.

This novel is on my 1001 list. And Bowen is an Irish author so this counts towards my goal of reading more writers from around the world. Next month Caroline’s group will be reading The Wars by Timothy Findley. Unfortunately the library doesn’t have a copy of this one so I won’t be joining. However, I did want to mention it in case some of you do. Caroline is a wonderful host. If you haven’t met her yet, hop over to her blog and say hello.

Also, I wanted to mention that I’ll be taking the next few days off to spend the holiday weekend with my family. I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend and if you celebrate, Happy Easter!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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25 Responses to The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

  1. Jackie says:

    Have a wonderful weekend! 😀

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth Bowen: The Heat of the Day (1948) Literature and War Readalong March 2013 | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks for the kind words, TBM and for wading with me through the bog of sentences which were … I have no word. i’m astonished and think nowadays she wouldn’t be published like this. I’m amazed someone found them so crafted, I feel this is lazy writing. I write like tis when I just jot down quickly, quickly,….
    And why anyone ever called this a noir is beyond me.
    *********** Spolier alert***************
    Wasn’t Robert’s death weird? How the hell did that happen? Because of his leg? Was he killed?

    • TBM says:

      Spoiler Alert

      I was blown away by Robert’s death. For some time I thought something would happen to him, but falling off a roof. That was so anticlimactic I wondered if it was supposed to be funny. But it’s not funny since he was handicapped. But she never answered or hinted strongly enough that he was murdered. So I’m still baffled by it.

      • Caroline says:

        Anticlimatic is exactly how it felt. Kevin argued that she chose this ending because she had no clue where to go with her plot. I’m not sure that’s the case but it was far from satisfying.

      • TBM says:

        Kevin might be right, but I had no idea where she was heading with the plot either. I was confused why Louie and Connie had such big parts, except to show the treatment of women during the time. After the weekend I’ll have to visit the other blogs and see how others thought of the novel

      • Caroline says:

        Litlove and Danielle haven’t finished yet. i guess their posts will be up next week.I

      • TBM says:

        Good. Then I’m not too far behind.

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    I love Elizabeth Bowen so I vote you read more. Her prose has such a measured, steady tempo.

  5. Thank you for the honest review… (I wasn’t too keen on The Wars…I’m looking forward to seeing what you think :))

  6. lynnsbooks says:

    Not read this to be honest and after reading (and rereading) the above sentence I’m not encouraged to do so.
    Thanks for that review.
    Lynn 😀

  7. Novroz says:

    the quote you gave is really difficult to understand. If from beginning of the book it’s already sound like that, I will definitely stop reading in less than 5 pages.

  8. Happy Easter! Have a great weekend.

  9. Fergiemoto says:

    I hope you had an enjoyable weekend and a Happy Easter!

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