It reminds me a lot of Anita Brookner's work - an author I used to read a lot, but then realised I felt like I was reading the same book again and again. Some authors do seem to write on the same theme, I think. Each one is a gem, but variations of the same gem - different shades of sapphire perhaps. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it might be good, but if you reach their whole oeuvre all at once, things seem to become a little too familiar.
But I have become side-tracked - back to the Elizabeth Bowen. I am about a third way through this book and I can see it is atmospheric. Every time I pick it up I am immediately submerged in its stifling atmosphere. It is about, predictably, a house in Paris, and in this particular house two English children, Henrietta and Leopold (who are strangers to each other) are waiting for relatives to pick them up and continue their journeys. Their temporary guardian is a spinster aged about forty called Miss Fisher, and she has a mother who is teminally ill upstairs. This illness is infecting everything. Every action is pondered over and then usually curtailed. Conversations are stilted because every word that is uttered is examined by the children. They are curious creatures, these children, unrealistically wise beyond their years; when they are hurt they swallow that hurt manfully (or womanfully); when they play they do so with restraint.
I hope I am not making this sound like an unattractive reading experience, because it is not. The last couple of pages have been almost unbearably tense. Someone came to the door and the maid answered. We followed the door shutting and then the maid's steps upstairs. We then heard her encountering the spinster on the landing and the two of them interrupting each other in French.
'The women came down with a kind of congested rush, like lava flowing as fast as it can. The soughing of Miss Fisher's petticoats made the house seem tiny. Nothing was said: Henrietta could almost hear them make warning eyes at each other. Then the flat step of Mariette went away down the passage; Miss Fisher was left waiting outside the salon door, so acutely silent you only knew she was there. Henrietta and Leopold both dreaded, as she was palpably dreading, her coming in...'This sort of thing goes on for another page so at the end of it the reader feels the same desperate anticipation as the children - and is not disappointed.