Elizabeth Bowen

A Literary Life

  • Patricia Laurence

Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 1-12
  3. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 13-52
  4. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 53-82
  5. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 83-117
  6. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 119-180
  7. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 181-190
  8. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 191-221
  9. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 223-249
  10. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 251-279
  11. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 281-295
  12. Patricia Laurence
    Pages 297-320
  13. Back Matter
    Pages 321-357

About this book


Elizabeth Bowen: A Literary Life reinvents Bowen as a public intellectual, propagandist, spy, cultural ambassador, journalist, and essayist as well as a writer of fiction. Patricia Laurence counters the popular image of Bowen as a mannered, reserved Anglo-Irish writer and presents her as a bold, independent woman who took risks and made her own rules in life and writing. This biography distinguishes itself from others in the depth of research into the life experiences that fueled Bowen’s writing: her espionage for the British Ministry of Information in neutral Ireland, 1940-1941, and the devoted circle of friends, lovers, intellectuals and writers whom she valued: Isaiah Berlin, William Plomer, Maurice Bowra, Stuart Hampshire, Charles Ritchie, Sean O’Faolain, Virginia Woolf, Rosamond Lehmann, and Eudora Welty, among others. The biography also demonstrates how her feelings of irresolution about national identity and gender roles were dispelled through her writing. Her vivid fiction, often about girls and women, are laced with irony about smooth social surfaces rent by disruptive emotion, the sadness of beleaguered adolescents, the occurrence of cultural dislocation, historical atmosphere, as well as undercurrents of violence in small events, and betrayal and disappointment in romance. Her strong visual imagination—so much a part of the texture of her writing—traces places, scenes, landscapes, and objects that subliminally reveal hidden aspects of her characters. Though her reputation faltered in the 1960s-1970s given her political and social conservatism, now, readers are discovering her passionate and poetic temperament and writing as well as the historical consciousness behind her worldly exterior and writing.


Elizabeth Bowen Irish woman writer public intellectual World War II the Cold War British Ministry of Information espionage cultural ambassador

Authors and affiliations

  • Patricia Laurence
    • 1
  1. 1.City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-26414-7
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-26415-4
  • Buy this book on publisher's site