The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen

Sylvia Plath interviewing Elizabeth Bowen. 

I usually don’t read huge short story collections in their entirety.  Typically I dip in and out and after a year or two I realize I read all the stories I cared about and skipped all the bum ones.  Not only have I read nearly every story in The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen but I’ve also read this collection twice (the first time in 2007).  I reviewed this collection the first time I completed it, but that — alas — was deleted in Drunk Delete of 2007.  I figured I would give a semi-review another go since my original is gone.  Rather than review the collection as a whole, I thought I would highlight my very favorite stories.

  • “Making Arrangements” — in this story a jilted husband receives a letter from his wayward wife requesting that he send her trunk of clothing.  He does, but he does it with flair.
  •  “The Working Party” — a newlywed bride is finally hosting her small town’s working party (think church ladies with sewing baskets) everything is going perfectly….. until it doesn’t in a very big way.
  • “Telling” — Teddy just knifed Josephine to death in the garden and he is trying to tell his family but they brush him aside.  
  • “The Cat Jumps” — The Harold Wrights are very modern and forward thinking and not suspicious in the least so they eagerly grasp the chance to buy the beautiful house Rose Hill despite the gruesome murder that occurred at Rose Hill in the past.
  • “Reduced” — Two little girls are loyal to their governess… a governess with a shadowy past.
  • “Look at all Those Roses” — A stranded motorist gets creeped out by an invalid girl, an odd woman, and a beautiful rose garden that may or may not be fertilized by the odd woman’s missing husband.
  • “The Inherited Clock” — a vindictive relative manipulates a pair of children well into adulthood and it all centers on an odd clock.  

There are 81 stories in the collection and the seven above represent my very favorite.  I think there were about 4 or 5 stories that I didn’t care for, but for the majority they are gold.  For anyone who enjoys Elizabeth Bowen or other British authors from 1920- 1960 I can assure you will enjoy this collection of beautifully crafted, imaginative, deftly written tales.  

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