The Heat of the Day (1948) is a novel of fire and glass, of broken people in a shattered city. Set in London during the Blitz, it deals with careless talk and even more careless silence. Stella is something in the government, her son is something in the army, her lover Robert may be something shady and on his trail is Harrison, who is something in British Intelligence and who wants something from Stella. Surrounding their stories is that of Louie, who is whatever the newspapers tell her she is.
Identity is shifting and nebulous, while the burning of London casts its own shadows. Motivations, and even events, are hidden, often reported second or third hand, while the characters play their roles as if they have nothing to lose and very little to live for. Both time and space are fragmented –spaces are unstable because of the constant threat of obliteration, and the only time is the present, with future and past in the dark, as if outside a spotlight on a stage.
The Heat of the Day is a strange novel, alienating in some ways and awe-inspiring in its craftsmanship in others. I really liked it – it reminds me of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, perhaps an obvious comparison due to the examination of illicit wartime passions and secrets – but it is far more complex in structure and politics.