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!