The Demon Lover and Other Stories by Elizabeth Bowen was first published in Britain in 1945. In 1946, the collection was published in the United States under the title Ivy Gripped the Steps and Other Stories. Without exception, reviewers greeted it enthusiastically, praising it for what was described in the New Yorker as ‘‘a completely successful explanation of what war did to the mind and spirit of the English people.'' Today, ''The Demon Lover'' is probably the most anthologized of Bowen's short stories, and critics claim that it reflects some of Bowen's greatest strengths as a writer.
Bowen was inspired to write ‘‘The Demon Lover'' during World War II, after having experienced the Blitz, or aerial bombardment, of London by the Germans during 1940-41. Remembering the effects of World War I, people in London were overwhelmed by the events of World War II. Bowen's story, then, attempted to encapsulate the ‘‘war on top of war’’ sentiment which prevailed in post-Blitz London.
In ‘‘The Demon Lover’’ the main character, Mrs. Drover, confuses World War II with World War I. Returning home to collect some personal belongings during the aftermath of a recent bombing, she thinks of her long-dead fiance to the point where the reader does not know if this is a ghost story or simply a story of one character's neurotic mental state.