For the evocation of sheer atmosphere, try reading (and rereading) the perfect opening paragraphs of Bowen’s wartime story. Early-hours London is in blackout, and moonlight “drenched the city and searched it”, not unlike the bright beam of the author’s prose. There’s no noise except that of the underground and, as we watch a young woman and an off-duty soldier head towards a confused almost-tryst, Bowen helps us hear every subterranean rumble emanating from their battened-down night-time hearts.
First published in 1942. Collected in The Demon Lover, Jonathan Cape, 1945, and Collected Stories, Vintage Classics, 1999