From the Other Book I Was Reading

This one over sticky toffee pudding. I do believe I'm becoming quite the expert on world sweets and can say that I've had quite a few different versions of this one and know just where to go to get the best.  But then, that's an uninformed American point of view--what I like may be quite appalling to the average Irish person.  And I'm sure bangers and mash is not a delicacy, but you don't find that kind of thing in the states.

From "The Return"
in Collected Short Stories
Elizabeth Bowen

Mr and Mrs Tottenham were impossible. They were childless, humourless and dyspeptic. They were not even funny. There was nothing bizarre about them, or tragic or violent or farcical. They neither loved nor hated each other, there was nothing they did not know about each other; no mystery or fear between them. In the early days of their marriage they had been actively and articulately unhappy. She had had a lover; he had left her for months together and lived in some drab wickedness elsewhere. Then her lover had deserted her, he had been left more money; they had drifted together again, bought 'The Laurels', spun the shams and miseries around them like a web and lurked within them. They visited, were reputable and entertained; and kept a home for Mr Tottenham's nephew, their expectant heir.

There is an awkward moment in the prose here--a matted knot of unclear antecedents; however, for the most part this is spare and nicely done.  I am much fonder of the short stories than I was of the drab misery of Death of the Heart, which seemed to go on for a great many too many pages.  However, I have discovered that I often need a "leg-up" to read some authors, and Ms. Bowen may be one of those unfortunate few.  So I must go back and try again.  After the short stories.  After I'm back home again.


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