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The heat of the day Paperback – 1 Jan 1979

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Jan 1979
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Product details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140018441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140018448
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,375,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A tense thriller of suspicion, betrayal and espionage set in wartime London --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Out of mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last of sunset and first note of the siren the darkening glassy tenseness of evening was drawn fine. From the moment of waking you tasted the sweet autumn not less because of an acridity on the tongue and nostrils; and as the singed dust settled and smoke diluted you felt more and more called upon to observe the daytime as a pure and curious holiday from fear."

Ostensibly The Heat of the Day is a spy novel, a wartime noir.
In the first chapter Stella, the heroine, is told by a shady individual called Harrison that her lover, Robert, is selling secrets to the enemy. Harrison offers to withhold this information from his superiors if Stella agrees to become his lover. To begin with Stella is dubious. If what Robert does is performing an act for her then the implication is that his love too is part of the act. A surface cracks. The habitat of love in which Stella has lived comes to resemble the broken exposed bombed buildings littering London’s landscape. Bowen is brilliant at relating these inward crisis moments to the external world. Every description of place contains psychological insights into her characters. When, later, Stella visits Robert’s home she is horrified by the suffocating deceit of decorum she encounters in his mother and sister, a decorum that has already humiliated and unmanned Robert’s father. Robert calls his mother Muttikins. Enough said! The rot starts at home.
Stella herself is involved in a deceit. She had deceived her son about his father. Contrary to popular belief it was not she who betrayed him but the other way round.
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There are some marvellously funny set pieces in this story of wartime London. Chapter 14, where a dysfunctional family debate whether to accept an offer for their house, is so funny it is worth a read just for itself. However, as a whole the book doesn’t cohere and has put to rest the mild interest I’ve had in Elizabeth Bowen since I read ‘The death of the heart’ in my teens. Although there is some lovely writing throughout, much of the dialogue consists of oblique, stagey speeches, the narration is stiffly overworked, and the main plot (an espionage love triangle) doesn’t convince. Sarah Waters, who didn’t live through these times, has done a brilliantly better job of evoking them than Bowen, who did. For my money, the advance in the novelist’s craft between Bowen’s ‘The heat of the day’, published in 1949, and Waters’ ‘The night watch’, published in 2006, is immense.
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