The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War

Lara Feigel, Author
Lara Feigel. Bloomsbury, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-1-60819-984-6
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Release date: 07/09/2013
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-1-4088-3044-4
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-1-4088-4103-7
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-1-4088-3090-1
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Despite its unending parade of declarative sentences, this is an affecting, critically perceptive contribution to history, literary history, and literature itself. Centering her story on Blitz-battered London between 1940 and 1945, Feigel (Literature, Cinema and Politics, 1930–1945), a specialist in British culture in the 1930s and ‘40s, vividly brings to life the tangled professional and amorous links between her five main characters, all of them writers—Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macauley, Graham Greene, Henry Yorke (a.k.a. Henry Green), and Hilde Spiel—and the many others in their lives. More importantly, she sensitively illuminates their literary and other works by investigating the texts themselves for keys to their lives, thoughts, and loves—“art in the service of life,” as well as “life in the service of art.” For Feigel, her protagonists’ London was not the city of propagandists’ civic engagement but one of romantic and sexual exuberance never recovered in the inevitable post-war letdown. For most of them, “the war remained a charmed pocket of unrepeatable happiness.” It’s hard to imagine any reader of Feigel’s book not wanting to read or revisit her main characters’ novels and other writings. An absorbing, insightful work. Map and photos. (July)
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