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The Driver's Seat

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,574 Ratings  ·  381 Reviews
Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.
Paperback, 117 pages
Published February 7th 1984 by Perigee Trade (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen
A disturbed woman's journey of conscious self-annihilation...a perverse fairy tale in which the "prince" becomes a vehicle of destruction...and a brutally piercing statement on female victimization and empowerment.

Yeah...there's a lot to admire in this work.

That said, I must admit that the story didn't engage me emotionally the way a work dealing with themes of this magnitude usually will. My thinking was engaged, and my philosophical curiosity was certainly feeling it, but my compassion, my inn
...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 03, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Muriel Spark had enough brains for two normal people but this little novel was almost completely stupid. It was like a terrible joke whose heavily adumbrated punchline is a tiresome and obvious inversion of normal reality, like a banana slipping on the skin of a man. You carry on reading this book, and it is very readable, and doesn't take long, because you can't believe what you are suspecting will be the outcome will really be the outcome, and it is, that's all, no explanation, no nothing. Spa ...more
Duane
This is a strange little book, but one I won't soon forget. To say there is foreshadowing is an understatement; Spark tells you right away what happens to Lise, the star of the show. But that doesn't take away from the story at all. You can be sure of one thing if you pick this book up, Muriel Spark's writing will not disappoint.
Zanna
Jan 05, 2015 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bechdel-pass
This is the sort of book that crawls into your heart. I read the first half of it on the train up to see my family for new year and I arrived inexplicably on edge; it took me a few minutes to realise I had to blame Spark. When I'd finished I put the book down like something too hot, and kept on reflecting on it for a while as I drifted off to sleep.

One thing I reinterpreted retrospectively was the reason for Spark's flat-toned foreshadowing. She was really playing with the concept of authorship
...more
William1
Mar 25, 2014 William1 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Petar X
May 05, 2015 Petar X rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a novella, a quick read and perhaps one that is better read at one sitting so that the tension can build. Its totally upfront, we know what is going to happen a quarter of the way through the book and it just remains for the story to play itself out. How it does is what you think of after you've finished the book, and in fact that is probably the most enjoyable bit. Its very clever and creepy creepy creepy.
Mike
Nov 24, 2008 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is loco, man. We're talking Miss Lonelyhearts-loco, Lime Twig-loco, Violent Bear It Away-loco. A death-haunted fever dream that hits you like absinthe and leaves you wide-eyed and paranoid. Loved it.
Jessica
Nov 13, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novel (novella, really, or very long short story) published in 1970, Spark turns traditional gender relations on their head. As the buoyant, frenetic Lise, dressed in clashing colors, goes on holiday in Genoa on the hunt for "her type," she meets the elderly Mrs. Fiedke. The two team up for a shopping spree (slippers for Mrs F's nephew; a food mixer, among other things, for Lise):

"They are demanding equal rights with us," says Mrs. Fiedke. "That's why I never vote with the Liberals. Perf
...more
Blair
The Driver's Seat is a weird, evasive story in which we are introduced to a chameleon-like protagonist named Lise. In an opening that is instantly unnerving, the first scene sees her raging at a shop assistant for daring to suggest she should buy a stain-proof dress - rather than seeing this as a positive, she loudly berates the girl for implying she would spill food on her clothes. Despite having led an ordered, somewhat mundane life - she's worked in the same office for sixteen years - Lise se ...more
Ben Loory
Jun 25, 2011 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
muriel spark really intrigues me, almost enough to make me break my rule about not learning anything about writers i admire. there's an air about her writing which is almost evil, yet at the same time they seem profoundly moral. it would not surprise me to learn that she was a nun, or maybe killed forty people with an axe. or both. but, in any case, this book was a delight, and made my hair stand on end the whole time.

the other day i read a wikipedia article about judit polgar, the female chess
...more
Nicola
Aug 21, 2015 Nicola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ooft. That's how you write a fucking novella.
Diane
Sep 02, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not at all what I expected, but in the good way that shows you a surprising side of a writer. I had read Muriel Spark's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," which I liked, so I wasn't anticipating something as dark and ominous as "The Driver's Seat" turned out to be.

It's the story of the last few days in the life of Lise, an unhappy career woman who takes a trip to Italy. She buys a garish dress and loudly tells everyone she meets that she has a date with her boyfriend. We learn early
...more
Ben Winch
In some ways bizarre, in others commonplace, the focus skewed such that I was never really sure to what degree Spark had it under control, yet it never broke free. To my ears, the present-tense prose is clumsy, threatening to trip itself more than once, and drawing attention, despite obsessive detail, to the cardboard unreality of the story. Still it’s got something – a vision just skewed enough to keep me curious.
There was a time when they would stand and open the door for you. They would take
...more
Jonfaith
Driver's Seat abounds in a mordant wit. It doesn't admit much. The details revealed are rather baffling. That opacity should charge the narrative, maybe keep the reader off balance. Such remains inconclusive, the verdict is out. The fact that we know the ending should mitigate tension. It certainly doesn't. Muriel Spark delivers no fire in this novella, instead a most seductive smoke. There are whispers of Amis in this quest.

There is something modern, something concerning the consumer at the cor
...more
Sarah
Nov 22, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lise is bored. She has worked in the same office for sixteen years and one day decides to transform herself, invents an imaginary life and sets off on a journey.

Spark writes a dark and disturbing psychological portrait of a woman who is erratic, eccentric and frightening. It is uncomfortable reading and I am aware this is Spark's intention. It is also a strangely compelling novella, which lingers.

Short, sharp and sinister!
Alex
Lise doesn't make sense. She acts like a lunatic - not even a real lunatic, a lunatic's conception of a lunatic. All the way through the book, I thought: "Really? This is the plot? This seems very far-fetched." It seems like a story a lunatic would come up with. She gets herself into very dangerous situations with men - some would even say she's leading them on and then stealing their cars. She keeps mumbling about her imaginary boyfriend, whom she's looking for, who doesn't exist yet. "Will you ...more
BrokenTune
Mar 03, 2014 BrokenTune rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This review was first posted on BookLikes:
http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/...

Also, before you read on, please note that this review contains SPOILERS!

What kind of person would go ballistic on finding out that the dress she was looking to buy is made of a fabric that does not stain?

Anyone? Anyone?

Nope, I don't know anyone to do something like this either but guessing from the way the story of The Driver's Seat develops, Lise is not like most people - Lise is having a breakdown.

I say I'm gu
...more
Courtney Johnston
You know how something can be so cold it burns? Like metal on a winter morning, or dewy grass on bare feet on a summer night? This brief, relentless little book by Muriel Spark made me think of that sensation.

'The Driver's Seat' is possibly one of the most pitiless books I have ever read. Sparks creates a central character, Lise, who is it almost impossible to like or comprehend, and then drives her towards her death.

We are told very early on what is going to happen. The book opens with Lise sho
...more
Lise Petrauskas
I really hope my parents weren't naming me after this Lise.

How can a book be so readable and incomprehensible at the same time? I have a lot of friends who love this, and I am intrigued by it, but I feel the way I do when I don't get a joke. Like, wait, what just happened. (view spoiler)
...more
Sam Quixote
Jan 03, 2013 Sam Quixote rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SPOILERS

I read my only Muriel Spark book a few years ago, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and while I enjoyed it, it didn't make me want to read more Spark. Then before reading this I read Nick Hornby's latest collection of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from The Believer magazine where he highly recommends Spark's "The Driver's Seat" and it was his one-line summation of the book that made me excited to read it - which I did in a sitting. It may be considered a spoiler but I think if more pe
...more
Bonnie
Interested in more of my reviews? Visit my blog!

I had a really hard time at first getting a grasp of what this story was really about. Essentially, it’s about a peculiar woman named Lise who travels to a Southern European city, presumably Naples, to meet a supposed boyfriend. Once she arrives, all the men she meets she’s mentally judging them based upon whether they are ‘her type’ or not. It’s not till later in the story you realize she’s looking for a specific ‘type’ for a completely different
...more
Holly
Okay, this book is weird. Imagine a narrator only giving you like 20% of the story, and everything else is left up in the air and subject to your interpretation.

The Drivers Seat examines Lise, a probably-30-something woman who decides to have a break and go on holiday to the South. Her chaotic and erratic time in 'the South' is punctuated by one massive twist. Which I won't tell you what it is.

I didn't fully appreciate this book until I properly took time to go through it and examine what Spark
...more
Printable Tire
Apr 01, 2010 Printable Tire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sort of like an episode of some vaguely supernatural television show that ran in the late 60's/early 70's, The Driver's Seat is a creepy story of a lonely woman wandering around a foreign country looking for Mr. Right in the form of Mr. Death. I enjoyed her spontaneous behavior, how she acted like a ghost or some possessed human searching out the right elements to seal her fate. Her erratic behavior reminded me in some ways of the protagonist in Hunger, as both characters seem like they are prop ...more
Allison Parker
Jun 15, 2009 Allison Parker added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allison by: Rob Fromberg
I have used this book many times in writing workshops to teach effective handling/power of detail, which, in this book, is obsessive. The Driver's Seat is hands-down the best study for economy, precision, and psychological intrigue rolled into a single manuscript; an excellent example of what can be achieved in the limited space of a novella. I cannot imagine I will ever stop learning from Spark's mastery when it comes to characterization through the selection of unique, external details. This b ...more
Jason Coleman
Put this on the same shelf of deeply weird novellas as Nabokov's Transparent Things and Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers (which Spark's book may have influenced). The 48 hours or so leading up to a woman's murder, the story is all about control (see title), with a victim even more predatory than her murderer. Spark's heroine, Lise, marches through the story with an almost mind-boggling decisiveness, making scenes, lashing out, determined to find someone to kill her. Many people are struck b ...more
Jennifer
Oct 02, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
A very complex book for such a slender novel(la?). From the very start the reader watches Lise go through strange and unexplainable motions such as overreacting to the stain resistant fabric of a dress or breaking into tears at the office. I say the reader "watches" because Spark is one of those wonderful writers that shows the reader the action as it unfolds - almost as if she is not writing it but simply relaying the information without prior knowledge of it. She doesn't explain the whys of th ...more
Ellie
A typical Spark event: meaning, of course, it's not "typical" in any way of anything but Spark's originality and sometimes (certainly here) very disturbing view of people. There's almost no point in giving the plot-well, ok, a woman has to take a break from her office job as she is losing her mind-but really, she's going crazy and not in a good way-and goes on a vacation looking, apparently, for a man who will kill her.

It's a short and mesmerizing work. It doesn't take long to read but it keeps
...more
Nate D
Sep 23, 2010 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hysterics on holiday
Recommended to Nate D by: Patrick M
Shelves: read-in-2010, britain
"You can keep his luggage. You can have the book as well; it's a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sorts of girls you wouldn't leave lying about in your drawing room for the servents to pick up."


Chills down the spine. Precision unease. Strange and brief and honed to a desperate point, first in the throat and then anywhere you like.
Dioni (Bookie Mee)
Wow, one of the most bizarre books I've read. In a good way. How good is Muriel Spark? Her books are always so different. Murder mystery and feminist work turned on its head is my attempt to describe The Driver's Seat. If you're interested to read it, my suggestion is to NOT read any of the synopsis or blurb anywhere, and just go read the book.

Memorable passage:
"'They are demanding equal rights with us,' says Mrs Fiedke. 'That's why I never vote with the Liberals. Perfume, jewellery, hair down t
...more
Ape
Mar 02, 2014 Ape rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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The Drive-In: Providence, RI 1 7 Nov 06, 2013 07:07AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: July {2011} Discussion -- THE DRIVER'S SEAT by Muriel Spark 101 191 Nov 07, 2011 11:22AM  
Spoiler alert (see topic inside) 4 31 Nov 04, 2011 04:32AM  
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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
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“I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they don't.” 15 likes
“It's a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sort of girls that you wouldn't leave lying about in your drawing-room for the servants to pick up.” 9 likes
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