The Death of the Heart

  • by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
  • 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Death of the Heart is perhaps Elizabeth Bowen's best-known book. As she deftly and delicately exposes the cruelty that lurks behind the polished surfaces of conventional society, Bowen reveals herself as a masterful novelist who combines a sense of humor with a devastating gift for divining human motivations.
In this piercing story of innocence betrayed set in the '30s, the orphaned Portia is stranded in the sophisticated and politely treacherous world of her wealthy half-brother's home in London. There she encounters the attractive, carefree cad Eddie. To him, Portia is at once child and woman, and he fears her gushing love. To her, Eddie is the only reaason to be alive. But when Eddie follows Portia to a sea-side resort, the flash of a cigarette lighter in a darkened cinema illuminates a stunning romantic betrayal - and sets in motion one of the most moving and desperate flights of the heart in modern literature.


What the Critics Say

"A witty, lucid, and beautiful psychological novel.... By far her best book." (The New Yorker)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Narration makes the story here

I've given this audiobook high marks, when I have doubts I would've been able to get through the print version. At first, I wasn't sure about Kellgren's rather plummy accent, until I realized that she was capable of down-shifting to servants, etc. as necessary. As a matter of fact, the housekeeper Matchett was probably my favorite "voice" of all of them.
As far as plot goes, although Thomas and Anna are her brother and sister-in-law it's hard not to think of them more as estranged father and (unwilling) stepmother as they're significantly older than Portia. The girl bonds immediately with Matchett, who tries to head off the impending trainwreck regarding Eddie-the-cad, but just doesn't have the authority that Anna might (had she chosen to do so). I must confess that by the end I was thinking "Get a shrink!" as a reaction to Portia's angst, then realizing she's only sixteen, and had never really fit in anywhere, even when her parents were alive.
Recommended, though the story did seem bogged down on occasion.
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- John S.


Growing up is tough! It is especially tough for, Portia, an unwanted, sixteen year old orphan growing up in England in the years between two world wars. After the death of her mother, who was not married to her father, she is shipped off to live with her half-brother, Thomas, the legitimate son of her father, and his reluctant wife, Anna and the most stable person in her life, Matchett, her dead mother’s governess and caregiver. Portia is painfully alone, personally impoverished, and socially innocent when a young man from her brother’s office comes for dinner. Eddie is 23, handsome, lazy, unambitious, in debit to his friends and family and utterly charming to a 16 year-old innocent.

Portia is sent to a widowed aunt and her daughter, Daphne, who live in a sea coast town and lease rooms to summer tourists. Portia is scheduled to stay for two weeks while Tom and Anna vacation abroad. This is a repeating pattern in her life. She is not wanted.

When Eddie comes to the seashore house to see Portia and gives her a little affection, she falls “gushingly” in love. Eddie backpedals fast and cruelly. Portia sees him holding hands with the older, more sophisticated Daphne and she is crushed.

The emotions are written with sensitivity and empathy that is drawn from the author’s own experiences. Bowen was an award winning British novelist who roamed Europe and the world in the the mid-years of the 20th century. She engaged in a thirty year love affair with a Canadian diplomat while she and her lover were both married to other people. She lived an emotional life. It is a universal story told by an accomplished writer with years of experience. It is a good listen.
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- Betty "Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-20-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios