Great art is both challenging and accessible. Elizabeth Bowen's highly wrought Modernist writing style resulted in me having to frequently re-read passages and ponder their meaning. It's not a style I enjoy. I like clarity and prefer to be led by hand.
It's a shame because she manages to evoke a clear sense of Ireland during this key period of turmoil (the troubles in 1920), and specifically how the Anglo-Irish aristocracy appear to have refused to accept that anything was wrong. This means the book takes place against a backdrop of unease and tension which Elizabeth Bowen subtly signals through symbolism and language.
After finishing the book I did some research to try and better understand the book's themes and meanings. There is a wealth of information that is not obvious to the casual reader. For example, the use of ellipsis; how, as in Greek tragedy, the action takes place offstage; and the use of pauses, unfinished sentences and awkward silence. The book's themes include feminism, sterility, colonialism, identity and so on - some of these were obvious to me, but a lot were only clear once I'd read some more informed analysis.
Ultimately I found this a frustrating book. The plot meandered, the style was frequently difficult to fathom, and I was bored as often as I was enthralled. Perhaps this is a more realistic and accurate way to portray history? In any event I was relieved to finish the book and doubt I will read any more of her work.