In the autumn of 1944, Gavin Doddington returns to the seaside town and the ivy-choked house where he spent many months as a child with his mother’s friend, Lilian Nicholson. Bowen creates an effective contrast between the different states of the house in her story’s past and present; and I particularly like her portrait of the town of Southstone as having had the last of its life squeezed out of it by its use as a military base (the prospect of an Allied victory has ironically been the town’s undoing, as all the soldiers have left, and with them the town’s purpose). However, these are quite small parts of a long story, and I found most of the rest dull to read. It doesn’t inspire me to read more of Bowen’s work.

Rating: **½