It's the last day of September, which means it's time to write about a film I saw in May:

The Last September (1999), based on Elizabeth Bowen's novel of seventy years earlier.  A movie I chose from Netflix's streaming catalog because of my springtime penchant for period films featuring strong women, and which set off a string of great coincidences featuring four novels, three authors, two book covers, and one designer.

Novel #1 was Bowen's, the source material for the film.  Novel #2 was the book I was reading at the time: Doctor Copernicus, by John Banville.  Banville's name appeared on screen, to my surprise, as the movie opened.  It turns out he wrote the screenplay.

The Last September is set in Ireland.  Its filmic version is permeated by garnet & emerald hues, emerging from dramatic darkness.  While taking screenshots of Fiona Shaw in a party scene, appearing glorious and glowing through the translucence of whirling decorations, I noticed her similarity to the portrait of a woman on the cover of Novel #3, one I had read shortly before:

Dorothy Whipple's Someone at a Distance (1953), shown here in the Persephone Classics edition.

The portrait is of a woman named Pauline, painted by her husband, Sir James Gunn.  After a long search for the painting's date, I was happy to come across the website of the cover's designer, Megan Wilson.  Megan shared a lovely story with me about having tea beneath Pauline's portrait in the drawing room of its current owner's home, and confirmed my hunch that it was painted in the late 1920's -- in 1929, in fact, the year of publication of Novel #1.

What a wonderful visual and literary alignment, I thought, to find two studies of women arranged in red and green, resembling each other so closely, and representing fictional and actual figures in works completed in the same year.  Pauline, I thought, could have fit just as well on the cover of Bowen's novel as she does on Whipple's.

A day after my correspondence with Megan, I stepped into the used bookstore on my street, as one does when one is walking home on a warm evening in early May and curious to see what's new on the fiction shelves.  Bowen's The Last September fresh on my mind, I scanned the spines for her name and spotted a match.  I pulled it off the shelf to find that on the cover was . . . 

. . . another portrait of Pauline!  (This one entitled Pauline Waiting, from 1939.)  I recognized it instantly from my research the day before, and I purchased it just as quickly.  Only once I was out on the sidewalk again did I notice details such as the book's title, and then -- its cover designer -- Megan Wilson.

The visual memory that had led me to connect the filming of a Bowen novel with Wilson's cover of Pauline had, within a day, brought me to another Wilson cover of Pauline, this time on a Bowen novel.

And this Bowen novel, Novel #4, The Heat of the Day (1948), takes place again in September -- so far, in the Septembers of 1940 and 1942.  Of the first, on page 100 of the Anchor Books edition:

"In that September transparency people became transparent, only to be located by the just darker flicker of their hearts."

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