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Heat of the Day, The

stella robert london harrison

a novel by E. Bowen, set in wartime London between 1942 and 1944, published in 1949. Stella Rodney, an attractive widow in her forties, is having a passionate wartime affair with Robert Kelway, who works at the War Office. Stella is approached by the sinister Harrison, a secret agent of sorts, who has come into his own in this ‘crooks' war’. He tells her that Robert is a spy, selling secrets to the enemy, and that if Stella will allow Harrison into her life, he will leave Robert ‘on the loose’. Stella gradually discovers that this is the truth about Robert; he explains his treachery by a loathing of English democracy derived from a stifling mother-dominated childhood (his gloomy suburban home, Holme Dene, is the scene of grotesque comedy) and from his experience at Dunkirk (‘army of freedom queuing up to be taken off by pleasure boats’). Stella refuses his arguments, and Robert is killed escaping pursuit. Two minor characters, Louie Lewis, an ‘ordinary’ soldier's wife living in London with her friend Connie, and Stella's son Roderick, who has inherited an Anglo-Irish house, Mount Morris, contrast with Robert's disaffection. The plot is implausible, but Stella's predicament is painfully vivid, Harrison is impressive, and the novel's atmosphere is a remarkable achievement, the best evocation of the unreality and excitement of London in the Blitz.

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