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The Heat Of The Day (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Elizabeth Bowen
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 May 1998 Vintage Classics
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 being Stella herself. Caught between two men and unsure who she can trust, the flimsy structures of Stella's life begin to crumble.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (14 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099276461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099276463
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Probably the most intelligent noir ever written...The situation is surreal, the psychologizing profound, and the eerie inwardness trapped in Bowen's distinctive prose resonates inside a peculiar silence that fills the reader's heart with dread" (Los Angeles Times)

"One of three quintessential London 'war' novels, the others being Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square and Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. No other novel conjures the spooky solemnity of the Blitz so adroitly" (Time Out)

"A tensely charged story of betrayal" (Independent)

"Marvellously witty, poetic and socially perceptive novels... she is bang on form with The Heat of the Day" (John Bayley Independent)

"This world reminds you of both Henry James and Graham Greene...a world both placid and violently fractured...Bowen's prose is crisp and precise, but also suggestive and haunting...She combines moral refinement and pitiless but compasionate understanding" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

A tense thriller of suspicion, betrayal and espionage set in wartime London

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting picture of a city at war 31 Mar 2009
By Reader
Elizabeth Bowen, who stayed in London during the blitz, perfectly captures wartime in the Capital. She vividly creates a city inhabited by the living and the dead. Stella the main character roams through London and lives in strange rented rooms. She like the other people who haven't fled, are drawn into a careless intimacy: causal meetings in cafes and bars, brief encounters in the street. Stella's dead husband is still a shadow over her life but she tries to focus on her lover Robert and Roderick, her son. However things begin to unravel with the arrival of the loitering Harrison. Harrison threatens to disrupt her life and hurt those she loves. Stella can stop him but his silence like everything else comes at price. Stella's life begins to crumble around her.

This isn't an action packed novel of spies and espionage that it might seem but that is all to the book's benefit. Stella and the other characters are all perfectly observed and beautifully portrayed. Bowen's prose draws you into those nights of fear and steaming days of ennui, the `hot yellow sands of each afternoon'. High moments of the story are attached to historical Allied events but this isn't a war story as such, although it does deal with lives irreparably altered by the outbreak of war. I love the rhythm and the delicate nature of the prose, there is a haunting beauty to this book that deserves to be more widely known.

Here's another interesting book about the run up to the Second World War:
The Separate Principle
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brittle, strange and haunting 10 Jun 2013
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is a brittle, opaque story of a strange kind of `love triangle' set in the dark glamour of war-time London. The (melo)dramatic plot is contained and constrained within a quiet, very restrained sense of telling so that the narrative seems to be in tension with itself.

There is a muted intensity to all personal interactions, and this is the kind of book where we need to pay attention to every word spoken, to every tiny gesture made, to almost decode the currents between people.

If you come to this book expecting either a war-time romance, or a spy story then you will inevitably be disappointed. So much of this book is obscure, based around things not said, actions not taken, deeds which don't happen, and the book is haunted by ghosts: not just the dead, but the bombed churches which cannot ring their bells, and the dead souls of the living.

London is familiar and yet also alien, and many of the characters are portrayed in a similar way. So this is an odd book in lots of ways which keeps us feeling somehow just a little off-kilter - but it builds up into a strange, almost dreamy, mysterious and peculiarly haunting read.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Wasted Opportunity 31 July 2009
By J C E Hitchcock TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"The Heat of the Day" is set in the autumn of 1942, and deals with the triangular relationship between its three main characters, Stella Rodney, Robert Kelway and Harrison. (For most of the book he is referred to only by his surname, although towards the end we learn that his Christian name is also Robert). Stella is a woman in her early forties, briefly married and then divorced about twenty years earlier. She is several years older than her soldier lover, Kelway. Kelway was wounded during the retreat to Dunkirk, and is now working for the army in a non-combatant role which involves access to classified information.

Harrison, an agent with the British secret services, is investigating Kelway, who is suspected of passing military secrets to the enemy. Harrison contacts Stella and informs her that Kelway is suspected of treachery. He, however, is prepared to bargain; he will allow Kelway to remain at liberty provided that Stella becomes his lover.

Of the three main characters, it is Kelway who is potentially the most interesting. He is a man who is prepared not only to betray his country but also to collaborate with a regime as vile as the Nazi one. He has neither been bribed or blackmailed, but has made the decision to assist the enemy out of ideological conviction. Unlike most Nazi sympathisers, however, he does not appear to be motivated by racism or anti-Semitism. He rather believes that the freedom promised by democratic systems of government is an illusion and that it is the unity and strength conferred by obedience to a powerful leader which hold out the greater hope for mankind.
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3.0 out of 5 stars No better than the recent TV drama 12 Jun 2014
By Rog
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I thought there might be more to it than the TV drama but it was not really. An ok read.
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