The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen, introduction by Angus Wilson. New York: Vantage Books/Random House. 782 pp. $8.95.

The collection of 79 stories by this recently rediscovered British writer is rich in imagination, insight, entertainment, and craft. Irish-born Elizabeth Bowen moved early to England, where she wrote eight novels and several volumes of nonfiction. Her themes of romantic love, decay and decline, and unequal relationships as well as loss of the past were focused on the British upper class from the Edwardian Age through World War II. The stories range from monologues to ghost stories to character studies and novellas. With few exceptions they are consistently entertaining for their skillful delineation of the contradictory impulses, desires, and social strictures that cause people to do the things they do.

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