The Hotel, Elizabeth Bowen
There are many literary classics nestled in the Southampton stacks awaiting the attention of a devoted reader. Tomes from Poe, Melville, Dickinson, Conrad lurk about, all of which we shall hopefully explore at a date currently unforeseen. For today belongs to Elizabeth Bowen. Her works, particularly The Heat of the Day, have been called ‘Beckettian’, resonant of James Joyce’s crony Samuel Beckett (Oxindine, 2017). At the heart of Bowen’s work is the tension between futurism and fascism over the first half of the 20th century and through World War II (Walsh, 2017).
The Heat of the Day is perhaps her best novel, written “at the height of her writing powers” in 1948 (Gornick, 2017). This ‘post-Blitz’ novel had all the makings of a spy thriller – romance, mystery, and a cauldron full of conflicting emotions – wherein the protagonist finds herself caught between her lover Robert and the British intelligence agent who is convinced Robert is a spy. The Heat of the Day captures the hedonistic existence of bombed out London and remains a seminal novel representing the WWII time period.
Twenty years before writing her masterpiece, Bowen penned her first novel The Hotel in 1928. It is generally not as thoroughly researched and criticized as its younger, more popular sibling. The novel does, however, provide unique insight into Bowen’s experience in Italy and her budding creativity as a writer. In recent years, it has grown in popularity among bloggers. The Hotel is influenced by Bowen’s experience having lost her mother at the age of thirteen and her father being relegated to an asylum. The tragedy of her circumstance may be why “the isolated or orphaned girl is a recurring character in Bowen’s fiction” (Cullingford, 2007).
If you’d like a look at The Hotel for yourself, you can find a first American edition of The Hotel on the SBU Southampton shelves. Feel free to swing by the reference desk, and we’ll take you right to it.
Cullingford, E. (2007). ‘Something else’: gendering onliness in Elizabeth Bowen’s early fiction. Modern Fiction Studies (Dept of English, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN), 276.
Gornick, V. (2017). Elizabeth Bowen in Love. Raritan, 37(2), 109.
Oxindine, A. (2017). Resisting Dissolution: The Salvific Turn in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (Vol. 69, pp. 200): Marquette University.
Walsh, K. (2017). Elizabeth Bowen and the Futurist Imagination. Journal of Modern Literature, 41(1), 19-39. doi:10.2979/jmodelite.41.1.03