I picked her novel for a reason I'm not too ashamed to admit: I wanted to scratch it off my book scratch-off list. Indeed, Time listed The Death of the Heart as one of the "100 best English-language novels published since 1923". Seems like a weirdly specific flex, but okay (not really-- it's the year Time magazine started).
I have mixed feelings about the scratch-off Time list because, while I love the strangely satisfying feeling of rubbing a quarter against plastic until it becomes a different color, I do not entirely agree with its contents. The list includes absolute bangers like Catch-22, Lolita, Slaughterhouse Five, Things Fall Apart, The Catcher in the Rye, Infinite Jest, 1984, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Unfortunately, it also includes lesser literature like Blood Meridian, Lord of the Flies, White Teeth, and American Pastoral. Then there is complete and total trash like Naked Lunch.
The Death of the Heart falls in the *meh* category. Put simply: it is mediocre. It is an interwar novel that exhibits the tensions of the time. Everyone is self-conscious and adherent to an unspoken code of conduct, which makes everyone insufferable. The novel's focus is Portia, a sixteen-year-old orphan sent to live with her half-brother and his wife in London. Portia falls in love (because of course she does) with a manipulative man who toys with her heart. Not much occurs plot-wise, but innocence is lost.
I do cynically enjoy watching the characters all slowly realize that they suck but it's kind of a bummer to not root for anyone. I didn't get much out of Bowen's novel and I wouldn't recommend it. If you want to read a female novelist from the 1920s-1930s, check out Virginia Woolf. The Death of the Heart receives 2 out of 5 camel humps.
*Bowen, Elizabeth. The Death of the Heart. New York: Vintage Books, 1938. Print.
*Lacayo, Richard. “All Time 100 Novels.” Time. Time Inc., 06 Jan. 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2018.