To the North

by Elizabeth Bowen

To the North by Elizabeth Bowen


Summary / Riassunto

To the North was published in 1932 and is Elizabeth Bowen’s fourth book. It is a tragedy that centres on the life of two young women in 1920s London.

Cecilia Summers, a widow aged only 29, lives in London with her sister-in-law Emmeline. Cecilia loves travels and Emmeline owns a travel agency, she’s very proud of her job. They get on well, but they both realize that the refuge they have comfortably built is “a house built on sand”.

For some reason, Cecilia decides, reluctantly, to get married to Julian Tower, 39 years old, a kind but passionless man and Emmeline starts a relationship with Mark Linkwater, a young cad. The friendship between Cecilia and Emmeline comes to an end, and so does their comfortable ménage.

The love-affair between Emmeline and Mark is secret. At first, Emmeline yields to Mark’s terms and accepts that their relationship will not end up with a marriage. But the situation pains her, and the relationship comes to an end. When they meet at a dinner, they seem to get on well and Emmeline proposes Mark, who doesn’t drive a car, to take him home. Emmeline is very upset, lost in her thoughts, and she drives very fast. They have a car crash and die. Mark had just made her a marriage proposal.

The value of the book is to be found in Bowen’s ability to reveal the deep motives that influence human choices and behaviour. Especially the female characters have an interesting psychological depth and Bowen is very good at bringing out the emotional recesses and torments.


Must know / Da sapere

  • Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899. when her father, a lawyer, became mentally ill, she moved to England with her mother. She soon joined the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers and intellectuals who held informal meetings in Bloomsbury, an area of central London. Members of the group were also Virginia Woolf, E.M.Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Rose Macaulay, who helped Elizabeth find her first publisher
  • She was not only a novelist, but also a short story writer, essayist, critic, playwright, nonfiction writer, and memoirist
  • Among her novels, we remember The Last September (1929), The House in Paris (1935), The Death of the Heart (1938), A Time in Rome (1960)
  • The Death of the Heart is perhaps her most well-known novel. It is the story of Portia, an orphaned 16-year-old girl, and a portrait of a part of English society between World War I and World War II.

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