My reading for the last week or so–continually interrupted, like a picnic upstaged by intermittent splashes of rainfall–has been The Last September, by Elizabeth Bowen. As I live in the Pacific Northwest, where rain can feel like an ever-present inundation, there is a familiar fascination in Bowen’s well-crafted, liberally moistened atmosphere. I find in her use of the rain and all its manifestations, scene to scene, almost a tone poem, both dreamy and dreary, that underpins this Anglo-Irish novel.
The WP photo challenge for the week was to capture H2O in various interpretations. I love to take photos of water droplets, poised and quivering….to capture that one moment of translucent shimmer.
Elizabeth Bowen, in masterful prose, creates some ethereal moments throughout the novel by the use of water in shaping atmosphere. Rain is used as a character, a mood setter, a scene stealer, and often, in the dappled, shifting light when sun changes to racing clouds, a subtle harbinger of coming despair.
‘Down the walk, brightening air slipped like gauze round the beech trunks; great pewter limbs went turning, straining up with the sheen of muscles. Drops, infrequent and startling, loudly fell on his hat-brim, icily on her shoulders through the mesh of her dress. The path’s perspective was a tunnel of glass…’
In a scene that is, perhaps, more about climate than climactic, we have the eager soldier, vigorous in love, bestowing his first display of affection on a young, confused Lois. And in this scene, of course…there is rain.
‘He stepped…to the drawing room door. The five tall windows stood open on rain and the sound of leaves, rain stuttered along the sills, the grey of the mirrors shivered. Polished tables were cold little lakes of light.’
Then he stepped forward, and kissed her, his hands on her wet shoulders.
“Oh, but look here—“ cried Lois.
She was his lovely woman: kissed. He shone at her, she helpless. She looked out at the hopeless rain.
“Oh but look here—“
“But I love—“
“What are you doing in the drawing room?”
“I’ve come to lunch.”
She walked away from him, around the room…So that was being kissed; just an impact, with inside blankness….’
Did I mention this was a coming of age novel? More of this enigmatic story, and spurts of abbreviated dialogue… coming soon.