To the North

There is something about late December that always puts me in the mood for a tumble into mid-20th century British fiction. And mood determines whether or not I’ll throw a book across the room into my ever-growing discard pile or settle in for a comfy afternoon of reading. Elizabeth Bowen’s novel was just was I needed to entertain the mind and stay warm and cozy today.

To the North has two wonderfully complex women as the protagonists: Cecilia, a widow who lives with her dead husband’s sister Emmeline. Early on, Emmeline wonders if she will ever love anyone. “Nothing could be as dear as the circle of reading-light round her solitary pillow.” Cecilia meets Markie on a train in Switzerland and passes him off to Emmeline who then falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Cecilia is conflicted about whether she’ll marry rich Julian. Other characters: Pauline, Julian’s orphaned niece; Lady Waters – Georgina, who is Cecilia’s aunt and Emmeline’s cousin.

The book is infused with an understated atmosphere. Emmeline makes unintended cutting remarks as she dreams away in company with Markie, thinking of her travel agency. Cecilia, too, bustles about with her own energy and brings a certain light to the pages when she appears.

A sprinkle of yummy words like bumptious make the prose sparkle. Discovered by way of Cambridge’s summer reading course for next year.