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The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

February 2, 2010 | No Comments

The Last September (1929), chronicles the decline of an aristocratic way of life in Southern Ireland, amidst the rising tensions of the Anglo-Irish war. In the late summer of 1920, Lois Farquar, the young ward of Sir Richard and Lady Myra Nayler, lives within a privileged prison, an exquisite country house in which tennis parties continue despite sectarian tensions outside its gates. She captures the heart of a decent but hapless English soldier serving with the Black and Tans, whose guilelessness blinds him to her indecisiveness. Lois knows the world is changing, and that women’s roles are changing, yet she finds these prospects both attractive and frightening. Bowen’s book has a lyricism infused with vagueness, the setting and scenes unfold within a gentle yet threatening miasma. Violence seems perpetually crouched in the shadows at the end of the dying garden. The central question of the novel is one Lois asks of herself, and one increasingly being asked of the class to which she belongs: What do you think I am for?

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