The Last September – Elizabeth Bowen

Published March 13, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Last September is Elizabeth Bowen’s portrait of a young woman’s coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history.

In 1920, at their country home in County Cork, Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, Lady Myra, and their friends maintain a skeptical attitude toward the events going on around them, but behind the facade of tennis parties and army camp dances, all know that the end is approaching—the end of British rule in the south of Ireland and the demise of a way of life that had survived for centuries. Their niece, Lois Farquar, attempts to live her own life and gain her own freedoms from the very class that her elders are vainly defending. The Last September depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence, both political and spiritual.

What did I think?:

Oh dear, I really didn’t get on with this book. There are however many positive things about it –  Bowen’s descriptions and use of language are beautiful and it is a fairly short and easy read. The author is obviously trying to make a statement about the gentry and their laissez-faire attitude while in the midst of the Irish Troubles. However, I would have liked a bit more information about the war, and less about the rich as it became exceedingly dreary. In some points, it almost felt like she was trying too hard when pushing across that message, although some parts were quite humorous. One of the themes of this novel that I picked up was “not being noticed” whether it was the war, or characters themselves. I’m thinking of Lois in particular, one of the more interesting and intriguing people in the novel. A lot of times, her family treat her as if she was invisible, and she herself notes on many occasions that it would be nice to have some attention.

The book seemed to pick up slightly towards the end and I found myself slightly anxious to know what would become of her. I have to admit, I didn’t see the ending coming but perhaps it was the author’s intention to plod along in the middle and explode at the end? I’m not sure, but I’m afraid this is definitely a novel for the “giving away/taking to a charity shop” pile. I hope it doesn’t put me off Elizabeth Bowen in the future, as maybe this is not one of her best works.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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