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Symposium

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  486 Ratings  ·  58 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nancy
Feb 02, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it
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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Grace
Oct 03, 2012 Grace rated it it was amazing
When I first read this novel 20 years ago, it was too cynical for me. But rereading it now, it seems perfect.
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
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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KJ
Aug 20, 2014 KJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Monica
Sep 03, 2012 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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.
Leigh Coop
Dec 19, 2016 Leigh Coop rated it it was amazing
Muriel Spark is such a fun read! Quick, witty and superbly snarky but not too much (way before the word snarky was used). Highly recommend.
Leigh Koonce
Jan 06, 2017 Leigh Koonce rated it it was amazing
Quite an amazing book on many levels. Lyrical language, twisting plot, intriguing character sketches.
W.B.
Sep 23, 2008 W.B. rated it liked it
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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Ayelet
Sep 21, 2016 Ayelet rated it it was ok
There isn't much to say about this novel. It brings together a bunch of characters but you never get too far into any of their stories. Margaret's comment at the end is pretty funny.
Charlotte Jones
Sep 29, 2013 Charlotte Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Fountain
Dec 16, 2016 Julie Fountain rated it liked it
Quite an easy read. I liked the way the characters were linked across the chapters.
Lisa
Listening to an audio book by Muriel Spark is a terrific accompaniment to #ChristinaSteadWeek: I bet Stead would have liked Spark's satirical style...

The title is a droll play on words. Spark has resurrected the ancient Greek meaning of Symposium as a drinking party or convivial discussion after a banquet while also spoofing the guests' opinion of themselves as experts discussing some topic. Bookended by a posh London dinner party where the menu occupies the hosts at length but is actually cooke
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Laurie
Aug 16, 2010 Laurie rated it really liked it
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
Sinesio
Feb 16, 2013 Sinesio rated it liked it
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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Barnaby
Apr 22, 2015 Barnaby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nick Phillips
Dec 30, 2014 Nick Phillips rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine
Oct 12, 2015 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Would not have been a book I would have chosen to read myself as short and would have said not my genre. But I had to read it for my book club and I am so pleased I did! Thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt that I was sat by a comfy fire with a drink in my hand and the author was telling me about these people she knew and what had happened! It felt so personal and I loved this style. The story was intriguing and very cleverly written. I could "see" all the people in the story and was thoroghly absorbed ...more
Libby
Mar 18, 2016 Libby rated it really liked it
This is only four stars because I'm comparing it to other of Spark's novels. Again, we have the long explanation where we delve into all the players in the story, their wants and aspirations, needs and fears. Then, the quick violent finish. I'm not complaining, I love the story and the pacing and the jumping in and out of lives of the characters. But even though Margaret was intriguing and the other characters were interesting, I didn't feel quite the same pull as I have from other of Spark's no ...more
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
Priscilla
Jun 04, 2016 Priscilla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tiny book creating a wacky world of very funny and menacing characters. Of the Muriel Sparks I've read so far, this may be my favorite for its tight narrative and escalating momentum. Her jumps in time are perfectly sequenced. The book is satisfying, too, because of the moral questions lurking unerdneath the comedy. Ian Rankin's introduction was also illuminating. I read it with the knowledge of Dame Muriel's roots in poetry. Her books are such a lovely self-indulgent antidote to the wordiness ...more
Lucia
Oct 12, 2010 Lucia rated it liked it
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
Jul 24, 2009 Eileen rated it really liked it
Shelves: britlit
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.
Megan
Jan 19, 2016 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick, fun romp through high society behaving badly. Spark is smart and funny but at times I got a little bored by the characters. Still, it will have me thinking twice the next time I attend a dinner party!
Thomasin
Mar 24, 2011 Thomasin rated it really liked it
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.
Avril
Mar 23, 2014 Avril rated it really liked it
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.
Fiona
Apr 12, 2014 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Frankham
Apr 12, 2013 John Frankham rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
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.
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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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