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Memento Mori

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  2,645 Ratings  ·  347 Reviews
In late 1950s London, something uncanny besets a group of elderly friends: an insinuating voice on the telephone informs each, "Remember you must die." Their geriatric feathers are soon thoroughly ruffled by these seemingly supernatural phone calls, and in the resulting flurry many old secrets are dusted off. Beneath the once decorous surface of their lives, unsavories lik ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published June 17th 2000 by New Directions (first published 1958)
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Mar 24, 2011 William1 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
A circle of elderly people in 1950's London are regularly phoned by a stranger who says only 'Remember, you must die,' before hanging up. There is Charmian whose popular novels are undergoing a resurgence of public interest. There is her husband, Godfrey Colston, the brewery magnate, now retired, whose adulteries never seem to go farther than a fugitive glimpse of ladies' stockings and garter clips, and even this may overstimulate him. There is Percy Mannering, the slobbering old poet and grandf ...more
Sep 24, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: spark
4.5 stars
This is Spark at her witty and acerbic best with a novel that is funny with a good dose of macabre. I sometimes think that Spark doesn’t really like her characters and here she really puts them through it. The title is Latin for “Remember you must die” and the book revolves around a group of elderly friends, a number of whom start to receive anonymous phone calls, where a voice says “Remember you must die”. The caller seems to know where people are as calls are received at the houses of
Jan 18, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: It has been quite a while since I've attempted a book review—not that anyone might have noticed—but if you should happen to stumble upon this particular review in the middle of the night or during one of your drunken internet adventures, please know that my critical faculties are rusty and not to be trusted by serious readers—that is to say, those persons who sit down to read books seriously, with stern faces and pious intentions. My reading disposition has changed over the years and ...more
Deborah Markus
The short review: A strange, beautiful, eerily elegant book.

The details: The premise is simple. Several elderly British people have been receiving phone calls from someone who says, “Remember you must die.” How each of them responds to this message is the story, which is deeply humorous without being flippant.

I was surprised to see how young Muriel Spark was when she wrote this – she’d just turned 41 when it was published in 1959. I suppose I’m in no position to judge how accurately the charact
Feb 01, 2017 Fiona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I tried so hard with this, my second voyage into the strange world of Muriel Spark. Try as I might, I cannot get on with her, or her style of writing. There were a small handful of amusing moments, but for the majority of the book I was left wishing it was all over. I won't be reading her again.
Jan 21, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who have forgotten they're going to die
Shelves: 2016
Muriel Spark keeps surprising me. This is the third book I've read by her and none of them are like each other. The Driver's Seat was ferocious, deep metafiction, but this is...this is just a bunch of old people acting dotty.

I mean, no, it's about death, I guess that's pretty intense. A memento mori is a reminder of death. You know who gets into this stuff is monks. The idea is that you can't truly appreciate your life unless you've come to terms with oncoming death. This is why the capuchin mon
Have read this novel a number of times and as I have just put it onto my ' favourite shelf ' I thought it would be sensible to say why. Then having written that the inspiration falters. I love the book but don't know the reason. Its sinister and funny and bizarre in fairly equal measure...classic Muriel I suppose. Old folk each get a phone call in which a voice, oddly different to each listener, declares ' Memento Mori '- ' Remember you will die'. For some this is a simple confirmation of the ob ...more
Feb 03, 2017 Nigeyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed my second foray into the startling world of Muriel Spark, having previously read, and liked, 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' a few years back.

Who is the mystery caller, or perhaps callers, plaguing a group of aged people? The message is always the same “Remember you must die”. As the frequency of calls increases, the reader gets more familiar with a group of connected friends, relatives and acquaintances, many of whom protect secrets from their past. The reactions to these
Nov 18, 2016 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The blurb on the back of my paperback copy by Stephen Schiff of the New Yorker calls Memento Mori "A complex, beautiful, and terrifyingly insightful novel about old age." This is spot on!

I was surprised to see that Muriel Spark was only 41 when she penned this because it seems to really get at the heart of being in your seventies and eighties.

The premise is pretty simply, a group of elderly friends start receiving phone calls from an unknown caller that simple says "remember you must die". The
Dhanaraj Rajan
Jan 13, 2015 Dhanaraj Rajan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
What to say of the novel?

It is primarily about old people and their obsession with the Death.

Old People = They are the Memento Mori.

What do the old people are obsessed with or afraid of? Death's call.
"Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield."

What can be done to avoid such fears at the old age? It is better to develop from the younger days the habit of remembering death.
"If I had my l
Jul 21, 2010 Leslie added it
Recommended to Leslie by: John Richardson
This is a very talky book, mostly set in drawing rooms and hospital wards. It follows a high-society geriatric set and their servants and lovers past and present. The high-society old folks have been prone to intrigues; most are long past and poorly buried (the intrigues, not the old folks). These folks are haunted, paranoid and fearing exposure. The servants and lovers wield power to blackmail and worm their way into some high-society wills. In my opinion, the stage show is most thrilling when ...more
Dec 07, 2016 Niki rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Sorry, I had to stop. I completely lost my interest and reading it became a chore. Maybe I'll give it a chance again in the future.
May 31, 2015 Jaksen rated it really liked it
Well this was an interesting and unusual novel...

I wanted to read something by Muriel Spark, considered by many literary critics/experts as one of the finest writers of her generation - mid-20th century for the most part - and author of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.' So I read 'Memento Mori,' which translates into: Remember you must die.

And this is what several of the characters hear an anonymous caller tell them, on the phone. (This was written in 1958 when Muriel Spark was in her early forti
MJ Nicholls
The first geriatric comedy in a genre of two, the other being B.S. Johnson’s House Mother Normal, Spark’s attempt has more actual text on its pages than B.S.’s, the bulk of that text being amusing and cunning stuff.
Sheryl Sorrentino
Mar 08, 2013 Sheryl Sorrentino rated it liked it
Always amazes me when I can agree with both the five star and two star reviews. I liked this book for its tone and what one reviewer labeled the "economy" of Spark's writing. As a matter of craft, she is probably a genious for so seamlessly weaving so many quirky characters and sublots through such a cohesive, cleverly-written vehicle. For that talent alone, she deserves five stars.

But the story itself fell just a bit flat for me. I didn't especially care about any of the characters; I found the
Jan 28, 2009 Cera rated it liked it
A black comedy about old age and the inevitability of death, with very few characters under 70. I give it high marks both for tackling such an unusual and challenging topic head on, and for doing so utterly unselfconsciously; this is not an issue book, not a Serious Attempt to talk about old people, but instead comedy in the true sense, a book that stimulates fears only to laugh at them, and that satirises social problems without offering solutions.

That being said... I didn't really enjoy readi
Jan 16, 2013 Jafar rated it it was ok
The large cast of the English geriatrics in this book can at times by witty and humorous, but their petty affairs and blackmailing become quickly tiresome, and the book comes off as pointless in the end. If the book wanted to treat the inevitability of old age and death in a humorous way, it was off the track.
Aug 20, 2015 Filipa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Filipa by: Rui Mateus
My previous experience with Muriel Spark had been delightful and a friend, knowing how excited I had been with that reading, lent me Memento Mori for the summer. This is a very curious book. I must say I was rather intrigued with it as I read the back cover. And, contrary to what had happened with the other book I read by her, I expected the author would surprise me with all her might. Having read more than one book by her by now, I can certainly point out some characteristics that are exclusiv ...more
A group of septuagenarians in late-1950s Britain are receiving upsetting phone calls: a man keeps harassing them, simply stating, "Remember, you must die." In Spark's hands, what would be a vehicle or device for a crime/thriller in the hands of someone like Agatha Christie instead becomes a tour de force of social commentary.

Like Christie, Spark uses social banter to explore and criticize social issues; in Memento Mori, Spark brings postbellum anxieties about class, gender, and death to bear on
What could happen to a group of old people who are threatened by an anonymous calls with a single message: "remember that you will die"?

Additionally, a great expectation is made with their wills any time one of them reach its final end of life.

The reminder about the death - the Mememto Mori, brings a lot of mystery, metaphysical issues, tea time party and even some ironic moments.

Another little masterpiece written by Muriel Spark.
May 07, 2014 Roberta rated it it was ok
Shelves: regno-unito
I missed the mark here. Although I did smile here and there I can't describe it as a black comedy, a locution that often appears in other review.
It's a pleasant story, but I struggle to finish it.
Nov 22, 2016 JacquiWine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

First published in 1959, Memento Mori focuses on the lives of a group of English ladies and gentlemen in their seventies and eighties, all of whom are linked by family ties, social connections and various secrets reaching back over the previous fifty years. As the novel opens, we learn that Dame Lettie Colston (one of the central characters in the book) has been on the receiving end of a sequence of mysterious phone calls from an unknown male caller. Each time the message is the same: ‘
May 08, 2011 Paola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: narrativa
E ricordiamocelo una volta ogni tanto che dobbiam morire.
Memento mori, ricordati che la vita finisce prima, o poi, o durante, e comunque, e anche se, forse o magari, domani o dopodomani, di sera o di mattina, estate o inverno, che dormi o sei sveglio, incazzato nero o seduto sul cesso. Che tu sia Onassis, media borghesia, barbone, intelligente, genio o demente.
Che presto o tardi é il nostro turno.
C'é chi carpe diem, diamoci dentro, cogliamo l'attimo e non facciamo tante menate. C'é chi si ferma,
Nov 01, 2016 Elise rated it it was ok
An early novel, this really fell short of the other two I'd previously read. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is scathing and weird, The Driver's Seat is feverish and weird, but Memento Mori is just boring and weird. There are mentions of scandal and secrets, but like in The House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett, it's all too obliquely rendered to be effective. The characters are numerous and tied to one another in complex configurations, but almost all of the intriguing heft of their stories i ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Marc rated it it was ok
To my knowledge Spark was the first writer that radically focussed on the "third age", the protagonists of this novel all are plus 70-79. We get a very humorous and even sarcastic portrait of old farts that are above all occupied with covering up their past, with atempts to bind (younger) people to them through their testament (that they change very often) and with constantly keeping an inquisitive eye on their fellow sufferers. In the end the image of the elderly becomes very wry and pitiful, e ...more
Sep 12, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: William1
Shelves: big-white-square
A congregation of unpleasant upper middle classes and Muriel lets rip. She's such a bitch! Great fun.

"Mabel Pettigrew thought: I can read him like a book. She had not read a book for over forty years,"

"Alec spoke to Mrs Bean and received a civil and coherent answer which came, as it seemed, from a primitive reed instrument in her breast-bone,"

"- there is always something new. I sometimes fear, at the present rate of discovery, I shall never die."
Apr 09, 2013 Sophie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
My first Muriel Spark book and an absolute delight from start to finish.
good god, this was bleak
May 18, 2017 Cathryn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this, but I just couldn't get into it, sadly!
Courtney Johnston
Jan 01, 2011 Courtney Johnston rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, borrowed
I might be 60 years late to the party, but you can chalk me up to the Muriel Spark fan club right now.

There's a particular English tone that I love - dryly, darkly witty, sparkling with a touch of desperation, a stiff upper lip that trembles on the tip of laughter or tears. Evelyn Waugh, Nancy Mitford, Stella Gibbons, even Dorothy Sayers and P.G. Wodehouse - they're tremendously stylish writers, and if you get subject matter that's moving, then that's even better.

Here, Sparks (still a relatively
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE 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. In 2008 The Times newspaper named Spark in its list of "the 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Spark received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1965 for The Mandelbaum Gate, the Ingersoll Foundation TS Eli
More about Muriel Spark...

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“It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die. It is best to form the habit while young.” 25 likes
“Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and dying as on a battlefield.” 10 likes
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