Gerry Smyth
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A spy in the house of love
Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1949)
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Elizabeth Bowen is without doubt one of the most brilliant and insightful writers of the twentieth century. In her novels and short fiction, Bowen’s focus is invariably ‘the death of the heart’ – which is the say, the exposure of an emotional allegiance of some kind in the face of a betrayal of some kind. Many critics have speculated on the extent to which Bowen’s aesthetic concerns were influenced by her Anglo-Irish condition: born and raised in an Ireland she loved deeply, she nevertheless felt a strong allegiance to Britain and British culture. This conflict was accentuated during World War II when Bowen exploited her Irish connections to make secret reports to MI5 on the situation in neutral Ireland. All these concerns are encapsulated in what is widely regarded as her most successful novel, The Heat of the Day. Set partly in Ireland and partly in London during the Blitz, it raises difficult questions relating to the morality of neutrality in the face of a patent evil, and the dynamics of inter-personal and political treachery.

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The Judas kiss

Treason and betrayal in six modern Irish novels


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