(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

It is appropriate that a novel whose theme involves the question of dealing with the past should take place in two time frames. The first and third sections of The Little Girls are set in the period after World War II, when Dinah “Dicey” Piggott Delacroix decides to recapture her childhood; the second section is set in the time just before World War I, when she and her friends were living that childhood.

Dinah’s preoccupation with the past is evident in the first scene of the novel. Ostensibly from whim or boredom, actually from a deep need, Dinah has been collecting treasured objects from her friends with the intention of burying a sort of time capsule for the benefit of future scholars. Interestingly, she wishes to preserve the varied objects which seem essential to her friends. While she is discussing her project, Dinah suddenly recalls another cache of treasures, the coffer which she and two school friends buried when they were eleven, just before World War I. Despite the discouraging words of her suitor and neighbor, Major Frank Wilkins, who points out that one cannot go back in time, Dinah resolves to track down the school friends who shared the earlier burial and with them to find that long-forgotten box.

Like Frank, Sheila Beaker Artworth and Clare Burkin-Jones believe that a venture into the past may be dangerous. With typical zest, Dinah has advertised widely for her schoolmates, and it is primarily to stop the...

(The entire section is 547 words.)

The Little Girls Bibliography

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Adams, Phoebe. Review in The Atlantic Monthly. CCXIII (March, 1964), p. 187.

Austin, Allan E. Elizabeth Bowen, 1971.

Baro, Gene. Review in The New York Times Book Review. (January 12, 1964), p. 4.

Blodgett, Harriet. Patterns of Reality: Elizabeth Bowen’s Novels, 1975.

Hall, James. The Lunatic Giant in the Drawing Room: The British and American Novel Since 1930, 1968.

Kenney, Edwin J., Jr. Elizabeth Bowen, 1975.

Time. Review. LXXXIII (January 24, 1964), p. 70.