To the stuffy, French bourgeois house, with the evil old woman in her sickroom upstairs, come two children who have never met before to spend a few hours in the care of Mme Fisher's daughter before going on their separate ways. Henrietta, conventionally English but not unfeeling, is on her way to stay with relations at Mentone; Leopold, with his disconcerting manner and precocious slyness, is there be-cause events in the lives of other grown-up characters are moving to-wards some sort of tragic climax. It is as if the whole of the past has led up to this gloomy afternoon, which also holds within it the seeds of a no less tragic future.
Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin in 1899, the only child of an Irish lawyer and landowner. She was educated at Downe House School in Kent. Her book Bowen's Court (1942) is the history of her family and their house in County Cork, and Seven Winters (1943) contains reminiscences of her Dublin childhood. In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, who held an appointment with the BBC and who died in 1952. She travelled a good deal, dividing most of her time between London and Bowen's Court, which she inherited. Elizabeth Bowen is considered by many to be one of the most distinguished novelists of the twentieth century. Her first book, a collection of short stories, Encounters, appeared in 1923, followed by another, Ann Lee's, in 1926. The Hotel (1927) was her first novel, and was followed by The Last September (1929), Joining Charles (1929), another book of short stories, Friends and Relations (1931), To the North (1932), The Cat Jumps (short stories, 1934), The House in Paris (1935), The Death of the Heart (1938), Look at All Those Roses (short stories, 1941), The Demon Lover (short stories, 1945), The Heat of the Day (1949), Collected Impressions (essays, 1950), The Shelborne (1951), A World of Love (1955), A Time in Rome (1960), Afterthought (essays, 1962), The Little Girls (1964), A Day in the Dark (1965) and her last book Eva Trout (1969). She was awarded the CBE in 1948, and received honorary degrees from Trinity College, Dublin in 1949, and from Oxford University in 1956. In the same year she was appointed Lacy Martin Donnelly Fellow at Bryn Mawr College in the United States. The Royal Society of Literature made her a Companion of Literature in 1965. Elizabeth Bowen died in 1973.