|Cover Art for the original hard back edition of Eva Trout (1968) by Elizabeth Bowen|
Eva Trout (1968)
by Elizabeth Bowen
Eva Trout is the fifth of sixth books, in chronological order, which she placed in the initial edition of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. In the 2008 edition, she was reduced to three entries, reflecting the general trend of reduction for any Author with three or more titles in the first edition. Eva Trout is one of the three keepers, and that probably comes from it's status as the best version of "late Bowen." Eva Trout is nothing more or less than a serious literary novel about an awkward young heiress and her convoluted effort to purchase and raise a disabled child. That one sentence plot summary does a gross disservice to the complex way in which Bowen develops the plot. Instead of using the conventional modernist technique of moving back and forth in time without signaling the reader, she structures Eva Trout as a series of episodes separated in time and space, without any connective tissue to tell you what has happened in the interim.
Mostly, the reader is left to guess at the motives of Trout and the other characters- calling them friends does not do justice to the complexity of the relationship between Eva Trout, the parent-less heiress, and the various parties who have been recruited to raise her in the absence of either parent. Trout is a cipher, and Bowen explains nothing to the reader, leaving us to speculate at her poorly explained motives, and, what, in fact, is going one.