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Symposium: A Novel
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Symposium: A Novel

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  38 reviews
One October evening five posh London couples gather for a dinner party, enjoying "the pheasant (flambe in cognac as it is)" and waiting for the imminent arrival of the late-coming guest Hilda Damien, who has been unavoidably detained due to the fact that she is being murdered at this very moment

Symposium was applauded by Time magazine for the "sinister elegance" of Muriel
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Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by New Directions (first published 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
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Lydia
Muriel Spark is a genius at writing interesting and fleshed-out characters.
This book is about a dinner party, as the title suggests. Except that it's not really. It's about the characters at that dinner party. It's about their lives and their pasts and their relationships. It's almost pure character study. It's wonderful.

Despite there being a multitude of characters in what is only a very short book, each one was distinct. I knew the characters names and who each one was when they were mentioned
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Grace
When I first read this novel 20 years ago, it was too cynical for me. But rereading it now, it seems perfect.
KJ
In his introduction to the Virago Classics edition of this brilliantly written and entertaining novel, Ian Rankin tells how Muriel Spark was suggested to him as a suitable PhD topic and it's not hard to see why.

Spark packs a great deal of action into a very small package and, like Semtex, it soon becomes clear that its small size belies the social explosions that are detonated within its pages.

Spark has a pitiless eye and a natural aptitude for describing human behaviour. If you have only previo
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Barnaby
I have read a couple of Muriel Spark’s novels before and enjoyed them immensely, so when I turned to this one I had a general idea of what to expect. Sadly, this time around, it didn't quite work for me. Symposium is a story of a dinner party in Islington held by a collection of posh people. Throughout the novel we get introduced to their many problems and romantic difficulties and the narrative dances freely around the lives of these characters and I found it rather difficult to keep track of w ...more
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.
Jesse Zellmer
This is another book I read for a satire class in college. Like the fonts and colors on the cover of my edition, it's a confusing little puzzle box of characters, nuns, witchcraft, pissy walls, and a murder. It sounds ridiculous, and it's justifiably funny and satirical. Unexamined lives and marriages along with class feuding are the core targets of Symposium's satire, and the connections to Plato's Symposium are genuinely well thought out but are accessible enough to create a hilarious story. A ...more
Nick Phillips
At first I thought this book to be far too concerned with middle class matters, a sort of early '90s Abigail's Party without the social climbing. The characters are drawn from the Yuppies of the mid '80s who have by and large transformed themselves into artistic, scientific and economic successes. The setting is a dinner party and there is a temptation to see this as a comedy of manners, snobbery and social faux pas to the fore. Then we learn about the Murchie family and meet the Sisters of Good ...more
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,
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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
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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
Mar 23, 2014 Avril rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
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.
Andrew
"And what does Eunice say? She says, 'It looks very fishy, Margaret. You were mixed up with Granny's murder and now you're mixed up with the murder of a nun.' That's so unfair."
Ilya
Clever and very promising, occasionally very funny. But somehow also didn't add up to much.
Sabine Webb
entertaining, easy read.
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
Miriam
I snort-laughed several times while reading this book.
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.
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.
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.
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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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More about Muriel Spark...
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