3 SEPTEMBER 1943, Page 22

Shorter Notices

Seven Winters. By Elizabeth Bowen. (Longman. 3s. 6d.) THE flawlessness of this book defeats review. Writing of the seven first winters of her life, passed in a Dublin nursery with' windows looking over trees and a canal, and pictures of Casabianca (to stimulate courage), and the Herald Angels on the walls, Miss Bowen contrives 'to recapture not only the sharpness, but also, a rarer feat, the complete and self-sufficient solidity of the world of early childhood. " The first time I did see a town front door of unmis- takable standing without a plate, I remember being not only scorn- ful but hostile. Why should the dweller here envelop himself in mystery? On that occasion my mother explained to me that plates were not, after all, the rule. If not why not? I said hotly : how very silly." Walks in gloves and gaiters with bored and boring governesses, exhausting ritual rests (" the energies that my rests were supposed to store up used this hour to burn themselves out in "), dancing classes in 'white muslin, parties at which " ladies with silver dishes and cups of tea inclined their busts between the backs of our chairs," going to church, where she " balanced on two hassocks and secretly bit, like a puppy sharpening its teeth, into the wood of the waxed prayer-book ledge of our pew," and passing with averted gaze the " porticos of churches that were ' not ours ' uncomfortably registering in my nostrils the pungent, unlikely smell that came round curtains, through swinging doors ": the basic material that in other hands might have bored or embarrassed here becomes, on however slender a scale, a work of art to con- vince and delight.. Let those who found Bowen? Court too long observe that this volume has only 48 pages ; those who would have been content to read on indefinitely may be thankful for this unexpected appendix. Here, for once, is a book of such finish and lucidity that praise becomes gratuitous and analysis absurd.