The Shadowy Third

Love, Letters, and Elizabeth Bowen – Winner of the RSL Christopher Bland Prize

Julia Parry author

Format:Paperback

Publisher:Duckworth Books

Published:17th Feb '22

£10.99

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The Shadowy Third cover

Critically acclaimed, this compelling personal biography uncovers the hidden love triangle between novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the author’s grandparents

Critically acclaimed, this unique and compelling personal biography uncovers the hidden love triangle between novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the author’s grandparents.

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 letters. Dusty with age, they reveal a secret love affair between the celebrated novelist Elizabeth Bowen and the academic Humphry House – Julia’s grandfather.

So begins a life-changing quest to understand the affair, which had profound repercussions for Julia’s family, not least her grandmother, Madeline. Julia traces these three very different characters through 1930s Oxford and Ireland, Texas, Calcutta in the last days of Empire, and on into World War II. With a supporting cast that includes Isaiah Berlin and Virginia Woolf, The Shadowy Third opens up a world with complex attitudes to love and sex, duty and ambition, and to writing itself.

‘It’s very epistolary and very beautiful, particularly with Bowen’s letters which are astonishingly beautiful, complex and intense. It’s like reading one of Elizabeth Bowen’s great novels' RSL Christopher Bland Prize


'A fascinating and moving portrait of love, loyalty and infidelity’ Sarah Waters


'Marvellous, gently elegiac, beautifully written, and fascinating' John Banville, New York Review of Books


'Bowen fans will be in her debt' Peter J. Conradi


'As literary discoveries go, it’s a big one' Sunday Times


'An essay of rare sensitivity and intelligent reflection' Telegraph


'Fascinating and poetic' Irish Times


‘A judicious moment-by-moment account of these complicated characters' Spectator

ISBN: 9780715654491

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

384 pages