Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Elizabeth Bowen once remarked that a specific collection of her short stories was a diary of a particular time in her life. In the collection published in 1980, the stories are arranged by the time of their composition. Beginning with an introduction by Angus Wilson that provides excellent biographical context for the short stories, the collection has five parts: “First Stories,” “The Twenties,” “The Thirties,” “The War Years,” and “Post-War Stories.” There are seventy-nine stories in total, and a section entitled “Bibliographical Note” completes the volume.

The volume includes short stories from three different collections. Bowen wrote numerous works: eight novels, five volumes of nonfiction, one volume of juvenile literature, and an autobiographical volume that was published posthumously. Bowen’s biography offers some helpful insights for appreciating the literary achievements of her short stories. She took the events of her life and reworked them into her art. She used the uncertainties of her childhood, including her relations with her parents, her experiences during World War II, and her physical appearance. She was a handsome woman, not beautiful, and above all she could be in a place but was never of one place.

Elizabeth Bowen was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 7, 1899, but the family home was Bowen’s Court, established by her Anglo-Irish ancestors in the eighteenth century and located in County Cork,...

(The entire section is 419 words.)