‘The Demon Lover’ by Elizabeth Bowen

The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen, 1945

The magic trick:

Taking something painful but ethereal and giving it a tangible, supernatural form

The demon here is memory; specifically the memory of loss.

But those things aren’t necessarily scary. But given a tangible – perhaps supernatural – form? Suddenly it becomes terrifying.

And that’s quite a trick on Bowen’s part.

The selection:

Toward the end of her day in London Mrs. Drover went round to her shut­up house to look for several things she wanted to take away. Some belonged to herself, some to her family, who were by now used to their country life. It was late August; it had been a steamy, showery day: At the moment the trees down the pavement glittered in an escape of humid yellow afternoon sun. Against the next batch of clouds, already piling up ink­dark, broken chimneys and parapets stood out. In her once familiar street, as in any unused channel, an unfamiliar queerness had silted up; a cat wove itself in and out of railings, but no human eye watched Mrs. Dover’s return. Shifting some parcels under her arm, she slowly forced round her latchkey in an unwilling lock, then gave the door, which had warped, a push with her knee. Dead air came out to meet her as she went in.

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