PART THREE, as continued from here: https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/861-2/

All my reviews of Bowen novels will be linked here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/11/27/elizabeth-bowens-novels/

All my links of Bowen stories: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/31260-2/

My gestalt real-time review of THE HOTEL will be conducted in the comment stream below:

14 responses to “*

  1. 15. LUCID

    “Does it ever occur to you that being alive is a mistake?’

    Veronica, in girlish despair at humanity and Victor her suitor, finds Sydney in her room reading Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, possibly the most depressing novel ever written. And thus they seem to share some gossipy Anit-Natalism while Veronica messes up Sydney’s bed by rolling on it!
    Veronica “rolling sideways on to her elbow to pluck a long white feather out of the eiderdown,..” and later “leant on her elbows, curling her feet round the rungs of the chair.”
    Some of this seems to resonate with Milton the clergyman and the word ‘lucid’ he has used about Sydney and its cognate in another Milton’s Paradise Lost of ‘Lucifer’ as an almost admirable ‘Satan’, amid that poem’s ‘lucid streams’….

    “Everybody’s the same and I must have somebody.” — Veronica says.
    This God and Satan both the same, each somehow the Victor, as well as her dictum that all men are stupid and all women silly, but she needs someone to get children (compare ironically her earlier Anti-Natalism) and demands Sydney should now tell her whether she should marry Victor!
    Sydney does indeed tell her to marry him and be “fearfully happy”!
    Does all such gossip have the underlying complexity of poetry, I wonder. This book is not lucid, thankfully, on that or on much else, I guess! This book has often become ‘nothing but print’ in the same way as Jude the Obscure becomes for Sydney at the chapter’s end, so Bowen at least makes me concentrate on her print so as to pick out meaning from what I struggle with. A good discipline for me.
    And there seems to be some pushback by Sydney about the pigging on pastry that Veronica seems to be advising…. with Sydney having earlier, I recall, been “pushing off something that was coming down on her like the ceiling in one of her dreams.”
    Even the furniture speaks to her at the end — about how Veronica has fulfilled her own destiny vis à vis that opinion regarding silliness by having been silly herself?

  2. 16. VILLA

    “ – Mr Milton went on nearly everybody’s picnics (it seemed a destiny beyond his influence);”

    Miss Fitzgerald is the picnic’s hostess and, as well various ladies, her other male guest — a sort of cherry on the cake achievement at first for her — is Ronald. He seems to be, for me, someone we would call neuro-diverse these days…. And the later encounter by Ronald with the huge tank near the derelict villa (a classic literary description of something seeming to me very strange) along with Miss F, sounds a bit alarming to me, as it possibly does to Milton, too, and I infer the latter’s suppressed jealousy as to Ronald’s contact with Sydney (the latter young woman neuro-diverse, too?).
    Sydney is not a member of this picnic group and tellingly she is probably out today with R’s mother…….

    As to the excursion itself…An empty villa that was once a Russian one during their Empire,.. Miss F looks for things they might have dropped in various arbours!! …

    “‘Think,’ said she, ‘if one were to find a little purse, or a bangle that had slipped off, or even a button! I can’t believe they wouldn’t have left something; they must have come here day after day.’”

    “The tangled gloom and the expanse of silence swallowed up their cries of admiration.”

    Ronald is a reluctant member of this picnic at hanging tank…

    “Ronald had hoped nothing; he had not wished to accompany her. They misunderstood one another (though she didn’t suspect this);”

    There is talk of politics, socialism and Empire. Miss Pym – a seeming socialist: “‘But must one be a Socialist,’ went on Miss Pym defiantly, ‘to wonder sometimes what is the good of us?’” A debate that seems to have as many deceptive angles as the manufactured terrain of heights itself where they walk… “Every now and then an artful perspective would be offered, to be veiled once more by trees.”

    Which brings us back to the deceptive TANK, and the deceptive angles of the shadowy thirds and halves of the Milton, Ronald, Mrs K, Sydney rhombus, and ghosts, too…

    “The water looked solid; if a body disappeared through the surface it might leave a dint, perhaps, a gash which would slowly heal, but never a ripple.”

    “At least, so one would expect, but Miss Fitzgerald and I didn’t meet anybody. Not a ghost, even, though we were sure we could and were very anxious to.”

    “…that the garden had been, after all, fully entitled to revenge itself.”

    The ghosts of the Russians, too, this being one of Aickman’s later empty ‘Houses of the Russians’?


    “‘Do look, Sydney – how civilized!’
    ‘How greedy!’ said Sydney, who was trying to direct her friend to the older end of the town, where she would at least find nothing but fruit shops.”

    Some sort of subtle rapprochement for Mrs K with Sydney (with Ronald absent at a “very genuine dead villa” as Mrs K puts it) thus ironically renewing the theme of ‘pastry’ mentioned earlier in contact with those ‘commoner’ folk, in Mrs K’s ken, Veronica and Victor (“Here, moving up and down thoughtfully, she found herself elbow to elbow with Victor,…”) ….elbows for Bowen being catalysts of defence or attack?
    Victor, tellingly like Ronald in Bowen’s eyes, “was the sort of young man who continues to move about uneasily while talking and to talk for a long time without looking straight at one.”

    “The table was as small as a mushroom between them; she looked helplessly at her handbag,…”

    But in Bowen’s eyes, too, every woman has elements of her Bowen self as an emotionally and bodily and ‘objectly’ detailed animism, as well as socially uttering and exchanging subtle philosophical thoughts on mœurs that are beyond the understanding of most common folk, including me in this chapter!! The emotional dance of Mrs K vis à vis Ronald and Sydney….the occult distances of all the Proustian selves within Bowen… momentarily bordering, here, on “irritable sex-consciousness.” The need to escape to other places on the globe, to escape the constricting Jungian gestalt of all us humans?

    “The facility with which it would be possible for her to cover larger distances and her present complete inability to move from the kerbstone presented themselves simultaneously.”

  4. 18. I DO WANT TO

    “For a moment or two his pen worked slowly, conscious of the formation of each letter, as though the two ladies had been leaning over his shoulder; then he settled himself down on his elbows and his pen flew.”

    Possibly this chapter is core Bowen. The most perfect chapter in literature, too? Starting with Milton’s elbows as he writes with his pen (another Onoto?), and a ‘l’art pour l’art’ pen picture by Bowen of Mrs L-M watching him (“Mrs Lee-Mittison, who was not otherwise immodest, often married herself imaginatively to men she took an interest in, then reviewed the possibilities of such a union.”) until a transfigured starkness into pliability of Sydney at the latter end of this singular packed Ulysses-day post-dead Villa and post-Mrs Kerr’s gift of amethyst beads to her, as one thinks explicitly of a perpetual autumn (“interknit fingery leaves […] The thought of those leaves coming out has a kind of taint about it, like autumn”) beyond this endless non-fatal stay at this place and its hotel, and she accepts Milton’s earlier proposal of marriage, with more of elbows, now Sydney’s, and Mrs L-M — as witness, as at the chapter’s beginning — ends it all in the dying light near the tennis courts witnessing again. From elbow to elbow, Milton and Sydney (Bowen?), via tennis.
    “‘An instinct made him catch at her elbow and guide her, as they walked, as though between puddles. He felt her elbow shake. […] but her elbow, rigid in his slackening grasp, asked not to be relinquished.”

    With the standstill of Zeno’s Paradox alongside this day…
    “…the staircase going up and down and doubling off at angles into oblivion, and the way the lift came sliding down the shaft to wait behind the latticed gates were all like so much expressionist scenery, emphasizing the effect she gave of being distracted, mechanical and at a standstill.”

    “He recalled his own shiver, the shiver about him in the very dark trees; something must have been immanent. The path, their very contiguity seemed to be haunted;…”

  5. 19. TEA-GARDEN

    “…everything is undermined by other people’s damned subtleties –“ — (“…there’s nothing like being crisp with these slithery, day-after-to-morrow people who only half see…”)

    Such ‘damned subtleties” being the story of Bowen fiction, in this chapter come home to an early roost, when, in the early era it was published, one could actually write…
    “‘Oh … surely?’ Colonel Duperrier was much concerned. ‘I thought,’ he said, ‘that girls could do pretty much what they want to nowadays. I should have thought any of you could.’ He was entertaining Veronica’s sisters, after tennis, at the English tea-gardens; they sat together in a triangle round a small expectant table under a lemon tree.”

    The perhaps lecherous Colonel D (“He knew that all women were born to be twenty –“) with his wife upstairs in their room worrying about his absence. The discussions that ensue are indeed subtle with two of the Lawrence girls (a la Bennett sisters?) , stemming from their sister Veronica’s engagement — amidst this marriage bureau of a Hotel — with (unworthy?) Victor Ammering…
    There is even a shared or co-vivid dream between Joan and Colonel D in a tropical land where they meet together, possibly feasting upon “a dish of some very large futurist-looking fruit.”

    “‘One is tempted to wish,’ observed Eileen, ‘that, for purposes of marriage at least, one hadn’t got a father at all, like Sydney Warren.”
    Some men give them the creeps.
    Like Milton who is still dogged by Bathgate…. Never to rise to Bishop, as Sydney hopes… why else did this steely woman accept his proposal, I now wonder?

    Meanwhile, Ronald and others pass by in the tea-garden as if in a a pageant mime, a man with “always the same air of being strung up for martyrdom to the occasion as the young Sebastian of painters is strung to a tree. He did not look at present a happy boy as, leaning forward, slack wrists crossed on a knee,…”

    As to his knee, what of Joan’s wrist in this chapter? No glimpse here of even one elbow! “…getting up looked round distractedly, huntedly, for the racquet propped against the side of her chair.”

    “‘These evenings,’ explained Ronald, ‘come down like the knife of a guillotine.’”

  6. 20. MRS KERR

    “dropping a plummet”

    “Her personality had a curious way of negativing her surroundings, so that unless one made instant resort to one’s senses the background faded for one and one conjured up in one’s half-consciousness another that expressed her better, that was half an exhalation from herself.”

    Much light shining into Milton’s eyes in this chapter to the extent of blinding him several times, as Mrs K manipulates Milton, as if Machiavellian in her evil for its own sake. Sydney has rebounded from her towards Milton because of the subtle incest of Mrs K, again today touching her son’s knee (cf Eva Trout and her Jeremy that I just read about today romping on her bed, like the earlier rolling and rumpling of a bed in ‘The Hotel’!), with Sydney feeling she is now the shadowy third…. And now Mrs K implants oblique doubts in Milton, so subtle, with such a mode of a high “Priestess” and with such pretension and pretence In her language and intentions, that a lot of it seems written in a language I can no longer grasp or concentrate on. It both slips off my mind and outshines my mind, neutralising the one unique ratiocination needed by the reader to fully comprehend what Mrs K is saying.

    Meanwhile in the same lounge…
    Ronald and the crystallised fruit…
    “who would continue to tower, prolonged by his shirt-front, indefinitely tall, crumpling gradually till asked to sit down again.”

    “‘Now, Ronald,’ she said with amusement, laying a hand on her son’s knee, looking down at it thoughtfully and drawing it away again, ‘feels sorry for people who are going to be married.’”

    Love to be taught between innocents, Mrs K suggests, and I sense her smug confidence that a sapphic relationship overpowers but does not exclude a man-woman one, too. She may even think some of this subconsciously… which perhaps gives her a benefit of some doubt. And the fact she suggests that there are “two Sydneys.” Enough for them both?

    And yes, that light in the eyes of Milton as well as the readers’s…
    “…the hard light striking with an impact almost audible on glazed stuffs, noisy colours, reddened skins, the urgent hum of talk, all these relaxed their grip on Milton’s consciousness, subsided. A feeling was produced in him of tempered light and clear gloom and of window open on profoundly dark and rather restless trees as Mrs Kerr said thoughtfully: ‘Religion, I suppose, is an immense outlet for gratitude.’”

    “He felt the light slanting down on him stupefyingly from the mirrors and ceiling a protection from feeling, a barrier, like an orchestra above which one could not, even if one had wanted to, make oneself heard.”

    “…she smiled at him like a priestess.”
    Ann Lee?

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