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In der Hitze des Tages (1948)

von Elizabeth Bowen

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9962216,963 (3.44)108
In The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen brilliantly recreates the tense and dangerous atmosphere of London during the bombing raids of World War II. Many people have fled the city, and those who stayed behind find themselves thrown together in an odd intimacy born of crisis. Stella Rodney is one of those who chose to stay. But for her, the sense of impending catastrophe becomes acutely personal when she discovers that her lover, Robert, is suspected of selling secrets to the enemy, and that the man who is following him wants Stella herself as the price of his silence. Caught between these two men, not sure whom to believe, Stella finds her world crumbling as she learns how little we can truly know of those around us.… (mehr)
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I re-read this book because I’m doing a massive purge of my book collection in the coming months, and had absolutely no recollection of what this book was actually about, besides the fact that I know I read it for some course during my undergraduate degree. Upon finishing the re-read, I totally get why this book was wiped from my memory entirely - because it’s pretty unmemorable. The story starts out strong with interesting characters (a group of British spies in a love-triangle), a great setting (London during the Blitz), and a lot of potential tension (duh, spies), but about midway through the story the author seems to waver. The language becomes simplified and less descriptive, some of the characters develop weird quirks with no actual motivation, and then the whole thing winds up with a never-really explained suicide/murder and a passive aggressive anti-confrontation with no one actually moving forward. It’s really too bad that the author never managed to keep the story tightly knit, since there was a lot of potential for it to be a slightly more feminized take on the espionage genre and an interesting alternative to Le Carré’s high-tension paper-capers and Fleming’s overly-masculine 007. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
On the inside cover of this, it says, “The texture of her prose has a gossamer exquisiteness…” Well, here’s an example of what passed for gossamer in the age of rationing when this was first published:

"She went ahead of him through another door to put the cat down; while he had, owing to the unfamiliarity of this other, no less minute, hall, a renewal of difficulty over the old business of putting down his hat"

Not exactly silky smooth is it?

Bowen’s book has probably only survived for posterity because it is one of the very few novels that is set in the London of WW2. As such, it evokes a time when the nation of Britain was struggling with its own identity.

The characters of Heat also struggle (as does the reader) with their identities. We meet Louie in Chapter One and bump into her continuously throughout. In fact, the novel ends with her. But you’d be wrong if you thought that she had any role at all to play in what one could ostensibly call ‘the plot.’

Bowen is verbose and likes the sound of the scratch of her own quill. There’s the basis for a thriller here, but there are absolutely no thrills to be had. If there’s any real skill here, it’s that Bowen takes the story of a woman who finds herself in a relationship with a man selling secrets to the enemy and manages to make it utterly boring.

Personally, I found the insight A Dance to the Music of Time gave me into wartime London more engaging. ( )
  arukiyomi | Dec 27, 2020 |
This is the 3rd or 4th book by Elizabeth Bowen that I have read. This book reminded me a lot of the first book of hers that I read, "The Last September", in that both books had the bones of a plot that I thought would be interesting but ended up boring me. These books are what I guess are now called character-driven (rather than plot-driven) which meant that I was continually frrustrated by the fact that NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. Because of the style of the writing, even when things did happen it was difficult to notice due to all the musing by the characters on their thoughts and feelings... Oh well, tastes differ and I am sure that many people will love this book but sadly I was not one of them. ( )
  leslie.98 | Oct 8, 2020 |
I REALLY FOUND THIS BORING. ( )
1 abstimmen mahallett | Apr 25, 2020 |
This novel follows the lives of two women and two men living in London during the war. The characters are people who have not been evacuated and they remain in the city for work, or lack of anywhere else to live. The main character, Stella, is a widow who has a son in the army. She is seeing Robert, a wounded Dunkirk evacuee who is working in The War Office. Harrison (whose first name we do not learn until near the end of the book) is a strange person who likes to imply that he is somehow involved in counter-espionage. Louie is a factory worker whose husband is off fighting in the war and she finds herself bored and wandering London wondering what to do and what to think. Her character is easily led and rather flighty.

“The Heat of the Day” gives the reader a taste of what it was like for ordinary people living in blitz-torn London. The people remaining in the city are portrayed as having a high level of comradery in which everybody was friends but they never got too close because they knew their friend of tonight might not be around tomorrow after the nighttime air-raids.

There is a lot of internal consideration of feelings and convoluted thinking about that the other person meant by their words or actions, or even lack of words.

The story points of view are those of Stella and Louie, the main female characters. Knowing Elizabeth Bowen’s background I can see she identified with Stella. The scenes in which Stella visits an inherited stately home in Ireland are obviously informed by Bowen’s own family seat, Bowen’s Court, in Farahy, County Cork, which she visited frequently as a child and which she inherited in 1930.

Louie is a rather two dimensional character. She is portrayed as not having a lot of wit. I think her character suffers from Bowen’s attempting to write a working class character from a rather elite status.

Strong points in this book include the explanation, through Louie’s reading and interpretation of newspapers, of how the news media is used to manipulate the thoughts of the masses, especially at a time of national emergency. This element is reminiscent of current times with multimedia channels being used to influence political thought and to lead the masses by the nose. I was amazed at how sharp this element was.

I shan’t discuss the plot as the environment in which it takes place, and the thoughts and emotions of the people involved, are more important in this book than who did what and when. ( )
  pgmcc | Feb 8, 2019 |
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In The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen brilliantly recreates the tense and dangerous atmosphere of London during the bombing raids of World War II. Many people have fled the city, and those who stayed behind find themselves thrown together in an odd intimacy born of crisis. Stella Rodney is one of those who chose to stay. But for her, the sense of impending catastrophe becomes acutely personal when she discovers that her lover, Robert, is suspected of selling secrets to the enemy, and that the man who is following him wants Stella herself as the price of his silence. Caught between these two men, not sure whom to believe, Stella finds her world crumbling as she learns how little we can truly know of those around us.

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