Runnymede English Teacher Publishes Her First Book

Ms Parry, of the English Department, has just published her first book. Entitled ‘The Shadowy Third: Love, Letters, and Elizabeth Bowen,’ it has been receiving excellent reviews in the British and Irish press. The story starts with a death in the family and a box of letters. Dusty with age, they reveal relationship between the celebrated twentieth-century Irish novelist, Elizabeth Bowen, and the academic Humphry House – Ms Parry’s grandfather. So begins a life-changing quest to discover and understand this affair, one with profound repercussions for Ms Parry’s family, not least her grandmother, Madeline.

Using the unpublished correspondence, the book follows the lives of three very different characters through some of the most dramatic decades of the twentieth century; from Oxford in the 1930s, to the Anglo-Irish Big House, to the last days of Empire in India and on into the Second World War. The story opens up a lost world, one with complex and often surprising attitudes to love and loss, work and home, duty and ambition, and to writing itself.

Inspired by Bowen’s own obsession with place and memory, Ms Parry travelled to all the locations in the letters (often in half-terms!). Her experiences in these places – in India, Ireland, the US – provide a colourful counterpoint to the biographical narrative. Ms Parry also weaves into her story a fresh look at the work of the twentieth century’s most enigmatic and underrated novelists.

She says of the book: ‘I have been working on this project for eight years so to see the book finally in print is a huge thrill. I never imagined I would write a book, but when these amazing, significant letters fell into my lap I knew I had to make something of them. And it was my family’s story; I wanted to explore my past. I feel I have improved enormously as a writer over the years although the process hasn’t been easy. Now I want to write another book; unfortunately, there are no more undiscovered boxes of letters in the attic!’

Signed copies of the book are available for sale in the school office. If you would like a signed copy with a personal dedication of the book, please contact Ms Parry directly (jparry@runnymede-college.com). Congratulations, Ms Parry!