84. The Death of the Heart

Not All Portias Are Fast
Modern Library # 84

1938, Elizabeth Bowen

Oh dear, I must confess I found this book to be most detestable. Though, one must contemplate one’s scholarly achievement in light of finishing this horrid little tome. (OK, enough Bowen-esque blather). Actually, this sea cucumber-paced (snails are much to speedy), wordy portrait of 16 year old orphaned Portia did have it’s moments. The problem was that they were so few and far between. The story, such as it is, ain’t much; Contemplative Portia goes to live with her half brother Thomas and his wife Anna who are part of London’s societal elite. They have a stern but kindly housekeeper (Matchett) who seems to be the only one who cares about poor little naive Portia. Detestable Eddie enters the fray, Portia falls for him (hard), she spends some time at the seaside with a decidedly more exciting bunch, Eddie visits, fireworks ensue, Portia returns to London, more fireworks, story over. And by “fireworks,” I mean those little black snake foamy things… Not even sparklers for Christ’s sake.

Yeah, this book sucked. I started reading it on a flight back from France on July 25th. I didn’t finish it until late October. It took me 2 days to slog through the last three pages. In fact, I dozed off three times on the very last page! Think about that… What book have you ever fallen asleep reading the very last page?! In all fairness, Bowen knows how to write, she just doesn’t know when to stop. I had dog-eared the book at two places where I found her writing either interesting or funny, but I just scanned over those pages and can’t figure out what I found worthy of remembering. Pages upon pages are spent describing mundane daily activities such as the process of placing one’s head upon a pillow and drifting to sleep. Rambling explanations of “innocence” and “love” are littered throughout. Nothing is ever resolved. The crisis points are as enthralling as television test patterns.

I am very happy to have read this book. I can’t imagine there are too many books on the list worse than The Death of the Heart, so now and I can certainly be very happy we’re both through with this one.

Hoang Completed: 2004, Rating: 4
Steve Completed 2004, Rating: 3.5

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