2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: To the North (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
"To the North" by Elizabeth Bowen is well worth review & a reprint. It is a prewar account of a small group of middle & upper class people in the 20's, largely living on investments, employing servants, travelling a lot & migrating between town & country houses. It lacks the intense focus & sinister undertow of Bowen's later "The Heat of the Day", which deals with a wider spectrum of classes of people & their wartime concerns, but it is just as good at pinning down & comparing & contrasting attitudes & opinions, not only of that day but in general. The novel turns out to be a love story & a tragic one at that. The component characters are all very different from each other & it would be difficult to predict from the opening chapters who will pair off with whom. Contrasts enable the author to explore differences in the basic attitudes between the sexes. She compares an illicit weekend in a damp cottage on the Wiltshire Downs with one in sunlit metropolitan Paris, for instance. Paris doesn't get it all it's own way. City living versus that in the country is gently explored. Actual traveling is coupled with accounts of setting up a travel agency in London. There is a vivid account of a miserable journey in the rain & at night through the St.Gothard pass; a flight on a noisy vibrating prop plane from Croydon airport to Paris is spectacularly described. There are some vivid characters in the book; precocious orphaned niece Pauline pronounces upon various aspects of adult life & Lady Georgina Waters pronounces upon pretty well everything, sometimes in very witty throwaway lines:
Lady Waters to Emmeline: ".....And how is your little kitten Beelzebub?
"Benito? He's quite well thank you."
"A tom kitten?"
"More or less"
"I expect that is the best...."
Even so, for one pair the novel ends in tragedy; for the other, it ends quietly but peacefully. It seems to me that Bowen is saying that you never can tell!