Books: English Ophelia

To THE NORTH—Elizabeth Bowen— Knopf ($2.50).

Most clever novelists are content if they can make their stupid characters appear dunces, but clever Authoress Bowen has gone a step further and made fools of her clever people. A long step in advance of The Hotel (TIME, Feb. 25, 1929), To the North is written with the same unblinking observation that may seem to some readers heartless but is so devoid of comment that it cannot be called cynical.

Cecilia, attractive and intelligent young widow, was not exactly heartless but she had little affection to spare. The person she liked most was Emmeline, near-sighted but charming girl with whom she shared a London house when she was not traveling. Both Emmeline and Cecilia were attractive to men and went out a great deal, seldom together. Cecilia thought of marrying again but knew what was what, investigated matrimonial candidates with care. Emmeline. touchingly business-like in her travel agency, was blind as a newborn infant when if came to love. When Markie, clever bounder Cecilia had already seen through, laid siege to her. Emmeline surrendered unconditionally. By the time Cecilia discovered what was going on, the harm was done. Markie, who knew better than to marry anybody, had broken Emmeline’s heart by acting like the honest cad he was. If Emmeline had been less defenseless, less trusting, she might have got over it: but she was in the Ophelia tradition and took Ophelia’s way out

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