Sunday, April 21, 2013

Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen

Has anyone read Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen?

Well, I have read half of it. Does that count?

I so want to like Ms. Bowen but I do struggle with her writing. The first book I read of hers, The Hotel, was about a group of guests in an Italian hotel. I enjoyed the language but couldn't really understand the hidden meanings in the dialogue. Do people really talk like that?

But back to Eva. She is a woman of twenty-four whose mother was killed in a plane crash and whose very wealthy financier father - who carted Eva all over the world with him - committed suicide. When the novel opens, Eva is on the verge of inheriting her father's fortune. Eva is a tall, uncomfortable woman who was educated by governesses. She doesn't have any friends. The only people in her life are her guardian Constantine; a former English teacher, Iseult and her husband Eric, who take Eva in to live with them; and, the vicar's family of four children. 

Eva decides to leave the home of Iseult and Eric and moves - escapes - to a rather rundown house by the sea. She likes it there. It is quiet. She collects sea shells. She rides her bicycle. She enjoys the isolation.

I liked Eva in that house. It is the first place she could really call her own. Could call a home. On her arrival, she can hardly wait to get rid of the chattering estate agent. Then Eric, the English teacher's husband, shows up. He bosses her around and fiddles with the fire. Next Constantine arrives. She thought she had covered her trail and that people would leave her alone, but alas that is not to be.

We jump ahead eight years. Eva has a son, Jeremy. They return to England after living in America for nearly a decade.  

That is where I left them. At the airport. 

I turned to Wikipedia to find out the rest of the story. It doesn't end well for Eva. And I found out some things: her father and her guardian were lovers; her son was bought on the black market in America and is deaf; she comes to fall in love with Henry, one of the sons from the vicar's family introduced in Part One.

I don't know people who act or think like this. I missed all the clues as to the above Wikipedia revelations. Apparently Ms. Bowen and I operate on quite different levels. At least in this novel.

Should I give up or does anyone have any suggestions?


  1. I haven't read this but I did read 'The Heat of the Night' last year with my book group and we all enjoyed it veery much indeed. Have you tried that one?

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Alex. I have not read that one. I will put it on my list.

  2. I read Death of the Heart and The Last September a few years ago, and recall enjoying them, but I am not sure how closely those novels follow stylistically to this one--it's been too long--so am afraid to point you in that direction. I have heard some of her books are much harder than others--her writing style is sometimes somewhat convoluted. I had started reading The Heat of the Day last month, but I admit I have stalled on it. Bad timing mostly--some people (I was reading it for a readalong) did not get on well with it at all, but others consider it one of her finest books. So she seems sort of hit or miss. I do want to return to it, but she seems like someone who requires careful reading and close attention and life is sort of stressful right now, so I have left it on the back burner. I am actually sort of intrigued by your post and might pick up Eva Trout just because it sounds so very unusual.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations, Danielle. I have now read Ms. Bowen's first book (The Hotel) and her last (Eva Trout), well, at least half of that one. Maybe something from the middle of her oeuvre will be more to my liking.

      While reading about Eva I couldn't help but be reminded of Lily Bart in Edith Wharton's 'House of Mirth'. Only because they were both such tragic heroines. They tried hard but never quite got the life they wanted.