Book 5 for 2016 is “The House in Paris” by Elizabeth Bowen. It is not a book I will reread which is usually a clue to how I enjoyed it.
- This novel was written in 19 35 ,being set in Paris just after the first world war. It is divided into three parts…Present, Past, Present. Part two, the past, I found to be most interesting and fast paced, although fast paced only when compared to parts one and three.
- In part one, we are introduced to two young children, Henrietta who has to spend the day in Paris waiting to meet a connecting train, and Leopold who has come for the day to meet his mother for the first time. Both children are staying for the day at the home of Miss Fisher, a thirtyish unmarried woman who lives with her mother and whom neither child has met.
- Part two is set ten years before, and we hear the story of Leopold’s mother. Miss Fisher and Leopold’s mother were old friends and Leopold’s father was actually engaged to marry Miss Fisher at one time.
- Part three is the same day as part one. Leopold’s mother decides not to meet him and both children leave the Paris house.
- Not particularly exciting, you say. No, it is not. But Elizabeth Bowen is an excellent writer with good control of the English language. She uses stream of consciousness a la Virginia Woolf to help us understand the characters, a method not associated with swift action.
- Themes of secrecy, betrayal and motherhood are explored in the novel. Although the book was well received when it was written, most readers would find the book old-fashioned with not enough happening. I enjoyed it but will not read another of her books for a while.