The Shadowy Third
CATEGORY:Memoir & Biography
Uncovering the hidden love triangle between novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the author’s grandparents – the critically acclaimed biography with never-before-seen letters detailing the affair
For readers who were swept up in Laura Cumming’s On Chapel Sands, Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey and Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.
A death in the family delivers Julia Parry a box of love letters. Dusty with age, they reveal an illicit affair between the celebrated Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the academic Humphry House – Julia’s grandfather.
So begins a lifechanging quest to understand this affair, which had profound repercussions for Julia’s family, not least her grandmother, Madeline. Drawing on the trove of hitherto unpublished correspondence, Julia traces these three very different characters through some of the most dramatic decades of the twentieth century: from 1930s Oxford and the Anglo-Irish Big House, to Texas, to the last days of Empire in India and on into WWII. Crafting a tale spiced with social history and a celebrated supporting cast that includes Isaiah Berlin and Virginia Woolf, Parry opens up a lost world, one with complex and often surprising attitudes to love and sex, work and home, duty and ambition, and to writing itself.