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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Last September (book) (1929) by Elizabeth Bowen

Author Elizabeth Bowen

Book Review
The Last September (book)(1929)
by Elizabeth Bowen
Anchor Books edition 2000

   The front cover of the library edition of The Last September proudly proclaims that it is "Now a Major Motion Picture from Trimark Pictures."   The box office mojo page for the film version said it had a domestic gross of less than 500,000 USD so I think the "Major" part of that sentence is more wishful thinking.

  Elizabeth Bowen was the daughter of Anglo-Irish stock, The Last September, although published in 1929, concerns events surrounding the Irish War of Independence close to a decade prior.  Anyone familiar with the tropes of "colonial" and/or "post-colonial" literature will be on familiar ground with the plot of this book:  A wealthy, though somewhat naïve young daughter of the occupiers gradually deals with the reality of regime change in increasingly concrete fashion.

 I believe I've previously observed that the Anglo-Irish literary canon of the 19th and early 20th century represents the first serious attempt at a colonial/post-colonial literature, where the never ending triumph of the master race is not taken completely for granted.  This distinguishes Bowen and her ilk from authors like Conrad, who wrote about colonies and colonialism without ever supposing that such a state could (or should) come to a close.   Because Bowen, like many of her Anglo-Irish peers, is a daughter of the conquerors and not the conquered, her work is a way point on the path towards full-blown post-colonial literatures of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

  At times, The Last September reads very much like a "marriage and property" novel of the previous century, but then the lead characters beau is shot dead by the Irish Republican Army, and the novel memorably concludes with an image of the country house which has been the setting for the action being set aflame, and you know that the times are a  changin'.

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