• Flying dangerously: Elizabeth Bowen’s To the North

      Darwood, Nicola (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020-12-01)
      In To the North Bowen draws on notions of restlessness, change and destruction in her desire to write about geographical place and, in so doing, clearly demonstrates her understanding of the technological advances of the age. The novel foregrounds ideas of travel – by train, car and aeroplane – as Bowen explores the world through her young protagonist, Emmeline Summers. Both the pleasure (that is, perhaps, the sense of curiosity identified by Gindin) and the inherent danger of travel are recurrent themes in To the North, echoing the Modernist desire for speed, but Bowen’s use of this motif can also be read as a metaphor for the destruction of the innocent individual in an increasingly corrupt and disconnected society where it can be more convenient to speak to others by means of a ‘speaking-tube’ (To the North 69) rather than communicating in person. This essay explores the notion of ‘flying dangerously’ in the novel, through Bowen’s representation of ‘airmindedness’ (TN 144), where travel proves to be dangerous (both morally and physically) and, ultimately, fatal on that final journey on the road ‘[t]o the North’. It focuses particularly on the role of Emmeline as a partner in the travel agency, an agency which ‘seemed to radiate speed’ (TN 144), and also provides a discussion which locates Emmeline’s work both in terms of the travel industry of the 1930s and her position as a female partner in an expanding business.