Symposium
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Symposium

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  261 ratings  ·  26 reviews
High comedy as only Muriel Spark can write it--witty, precise, and illuminated by moral inquiry. From a young woman who strangely attracts violent death, to delightfully mad Uncle Magnus, to the hilarious Sisters of Good Hope, the cast of characters move through the ingenious plot at dizzying speed, and readers are once again in the hands of a master stylist.
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published December 1st 1990 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (first published January 1st 1990)
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Nancy
I have no problem accepting the premise that "Less is More" in contemporarly architecture, but when it comes to Muriel Spark, more is definitely more.

I am on a bit of a Muriel Spark bender: this is my third of her novels this week (they are short!)and I have enjoyed each one more than the last. I don't necessarily think that Symposium was superior to the others (the Bachelors and Loitering With Intent)but rather buy into the premise that there is a cumulative sympathy building for her sense of h...more
Grace
When I first read this novel 20 years ago, it was too cynical for me. But rereading it now, it seems perfect.
Monica
“Symposium” by Muriel Spark is a fast book to read and for me was just okay. For me, Spark’s writing style is a mixture of Agatha Christie and E. M. Forster. There’s a little bit of mystery in this book, combined with events in the lives of 10 people prior to attending a dinner party. Add some humour, since there are definitely some situations in this book that are a little on the quirky side. The book never fully grabbed my attention but since it’s a short book I was able to read it quickly.
Charlotte Jones
The first thing I noticed when reading the book is that it is very much a character study of these dozen or so characters; you learn about their pasts, families, and present piece by piece, building up a clear picture of who these people are. You also know who is going to die at some point and eventually how. My favourite part of ‘Symposium’ was the insertions of paragraphs about the dinner party that these people are attending, the food they are eating, the conversations that take place. It is...more
Sinesio
Romance que pode ser classificado como policial, embora com uma técnica narrativa sofisticada, diacrônica, com o anúncio antecipado dos crimes que irão ser relatados em detalhes adiante. O clima de tensão, típico dessa literatura, não está no crime em si – uma vez que já conhecido dos leitores –, mas nas circunstâncias em que ocorre.
Mesmo com elementos característicos desse gênero literário, Symposium se distingue de seus cânones uma vez que não trata propriamente do desvendamento de um crime,...more
Laurie
The plot of Symposium weaves around a dinner party given by artist Hurley Reed and his companion, Chris Donovan. Their dinners are reknown for both the quality of the food and of the people there. And the staff- the chef, the butler, the servers- are all impeccably polite. All is not quiet in this rarified world, though- there have been a string of burglaries lately amoung their set, and there is a new member of their group. Margaret Murchie has recently become Margaret Damien, and she comes wit...more
W.B.
I don't know where Ms. Spark is taking me with this novel yet, but I'm enjoying the smooth ride.

It's very amusing so far. Is it just to be a satire on those leading privileged lives, or is she going to pull out the carpet and turn this narrative suddenly towards the dark and malevolent, as I suspect?

Here is an amusing passage in which two Londoners, a jetsetting married couple, bicker over a handsome young American man they are both eyeing as a potential sweetmeat. A monkey wrench has been throw...more
Julie
Symposium is one of Muriel Spark's later novels. Tartly and pithily told, it takes an upper middle class dinner party as an opportunity to explore the back stories and interrelationships of what seems initially to be a disparate group of people. Enjoyable enough, but I don't think this is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Fiona
Fantastic read. Did take me more than a few pages to get into however after reading the foreword I had to persevere and I was very well rewarded for doing so.
A very clever story line, witty, entertaining and unexpected. Definitely one I will read again expecting new layers to reveal themselves.
Avril
A slim volume, more of a novella which is typical of Muriel Spark. That is her genius, being able to tell a story with immaculate timing and just enough words. Nothing wasted, extraneous or repeated. I really enjoyed this dip into the world that she creates of privilege, wealth and madness.
Ilya
Clever and very promising, occasionally very funny. But somehow also didn't add up to much.
Jennifer
This is it! her final book! it kicks ass. they're running an International School on a budget, great character portraits, plot, the whole nine. Not many people have a patch on her! She even wrote a dishonest autobiography once, because she did not find her hellish childhood to be particularly enlightening or even absolving data, most probably. She didn't write a dishonest one like, say, Lillian Hellman, in order to settle old scores, or to exagerrate the nature of her travails. She did the oppos...more
Lucia
Spark takes the reader on another one of her gloomy journeys through the privileged set. Having recently completed reading "The Driver's Seat", I was keen to take up "Symposium: A Novel", on the basis of its plot summary. While there were no surprises, unlike TDS, the fleshing out of the characters was done with the skill of surgeon as Spark peeled back the layers of their lives to reveal the rotting cores of some and the hard pit of others.
Eileen
Muriel Spark sure does love a good murder, and she's expert at setting it up. This book revolves around a murder, literally; the construction spirals more and more tightly as the characters reveal more and more. It's intelligent and compelling, but not too dense or difficult to read on the subway. Very well done.
John Frankham
A splendidly quirky Muriel Spark novel, starting as an ordinary plot of five quasi-couples at a dinner party, with flash-backs. It then takes off to involve past deaths/murders, madness, and so on. Can't say any more. It's sense of humour reminds me of Evelyn Waugh. Brilliant.
Thomasin
I adore Muriel Spark. Her humour is exactly "my type." This story (novellete?)of mid/high society attendees was both interesting, funny, and just challenging enough (though a short book, there's something like 14+ characters!) to keep me fully engaged while reading.
Wilde Sky
The story takes off when the "mad uncle" (Mad Magnus), comes into the picture (page 48).

Not a bad read, reasonably entertaining. If you are the sort of person that gets involved in "posh" dinner parties you'll probably really enjoy this book.
Elsie Klumpner
Muriel Spark is deliciously wicked. This is not one of her best, but it's an interesting read. I found myself asking, it this really going in the direction I think it is? It's short and fun.
Lynne Marrs
I just re-read Symposium. As always, Spark fits the bill when I need a go-to comfort novel. That's about the highest compliment I can give any author or book.
Nina
Unconventional characters and an enjoyable read. I liked how Sparks wrote the gruesome parts as casually as describing what the hostess was serving for dinner.
Sarah
Bread and butter Muriel Spark (e.g. ominous characters who aren't what they seem, religious fraud, farcical unfortunate events), therefore pretty enjoyable.
Lauren Albert
I didn't find this anything special though it was readable. I couldn't relate to it in any way--intellectual or emotional.
Jessie
Frivolous, a bit of light satire of issues such as primogeniture and class. Largely harmless. Complete with murder.
Hubert
A most curious book - a little bit like reading drama intimately in novel form. A quick but rewarding read.
Joanne
A fast amusing read, but difficult to care what happens to this pack of self absorbed diners.
Esther
Delicious writing, even if the plot is a tad silly. The usual sharp character studies.
Sharron
A witty satire
Hermien
A delightful read.
Lesley Skoyles
Lesley Skoyles marked it as to-read
Jul 29, 2014
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE (1918–2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. A few years earlier, in 1954, she converte...more
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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Girls of Slender Means (New Directions Classic) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver's Seat, The Only Problem (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics) A Far Cry from Kensington Memento Mori

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