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The Shadowy Third: The adulterous affair that inspired Elizabeth Bowen

A trove of letters reveals a literary love triangle with the Anglo-Irish author at its heart

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Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

‘Ghost, get, out.” As Julia Parry started taking notes on her computer for this book about her grandfather’s love affair with the Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, the keyboard lurched out of control, spitting out a gibberish from which only those three monosyllables emerged coherently.

Parry took it as a positive sign of an “electric connection” with her subject and an invitation to expose the truth of something long buried. The result is an essay of rare sensitivity and intelligent reflection. More robust tastes might find it excessively quivering with self-consciousness — a quality it shares with Bowen’s fictional manner — but at its heart is a fascinating clash of complex characters, and Parry is alive to all its implications and ramifications.


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