In the High Peaks

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Elizabeth Bowen's "The Demon Lover"

On Saturday, after several decades, I reread Elizabeth Bowen's classic short story "The Demon Lover," from my volume The Collected Short Stories of Elizabeth Bowen.

The sum total of what I remembered about the story is precisely what hit me most forcefully on my second reading--the interior of the shuttered, abandoned Kensington home of a family of five during the Blitz. Mrs. Drover, the 44-year-old wife and mother of the family, comes in to London from the family's country home to gather some household items on a steamy late August afternoon.

Although this is a "ghost story," what strikes me is that I remember nothing about Mrs. Drover's encounter with the ghost! What I recall is Bowen's meticulous, sensory description of the miraculously intact house, which is no longer a home, and which is surrounded by houses that have suffered bomb damage.

I can't fathom Bowen's title for the story--it just doesn't fit. If you have read the story before, I heartily recommend a second reading. It is a classic of the genre, although if I do say so, the encounter with the ghost is a bit "over the top."

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