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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The House in Paris - Elizabeth Bowen Rating: 2.75* of fiveThe Book Report: Henrietta and Leopold, two young people in transit, come together at the Paris house of Miss Fisher, a mousy spinster, and her formidable mother Madame Fisher. Henrietta is the granddaughter of an old frenemy of Madame's; Leopold has a less well-explained, more painful connection to the Fishers. He is there in the Fisher house to meet, for the first time, his mother. She gave him up for adoption because he was the product of a fling, a casual passion indulged with serious consequences. Many of them, in fact, and they continue to reverberate through the house in Paris...the lives of each person in the house start out the day without any portentous signs that, by the end of the day, there will be no one left standing unchanged.My Review: Oh dear, oh dear, it's just no use. I can't like this book. It's sentimental, it's melodramatic, and I just didn't get off to a good start with it, since I detested Harriet the prim, smug little dumpling and abhorred wet, sniveling, spineless Miss Fisher.The subtext of Harriet's grandmother's Sapphic affair with the invalid Madame Fisher, and the Big Reveal of Leopold's true connection to the Fishers, were not enough to make me change my low opinion of the book. Perhaps if I'd read it in 1935 I'd've been more enrapt. Here in 2011, not so much. I don't think Bowen was all that as a prose stylist, frankly, but I don't think the novel is her form. Her short fiction is far more limpidly written, and lucidly plotted. But still and all, the book isn't the worst I've ever read. I just wish it had been either shorter or longer. The middle section set in the past is awkwardly placed in the narrative, and the present-day bits don't really need it to make sense, so it should either be snipped out like an appendix or expanded to be a full narrative of its own.Not recommended, but no travelers' advisories posted about it either. (Male readers take note, if while reading this book you feel an uncomfortable fullness in your abdomen, that's a uterus growing in response to your new, higher estrogen levels.)