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The Girls of Slender Means

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,633 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
Like the May of Teck Club itself—"three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit"—its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal: practicing elocution, and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. The novel's harrowing ending reveals that the girls' giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragica ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published April 17th 1998 by New Directions (first published 1963)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul
Feb 08, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spark
Spark at her best; acerbic, bitingly funny, satirical, unsettling, great use of language, numerous interesting and well-crafted characters, layers of meaning and it captures a moment of social history to boot. It captures the brief period of 1945 between VE day and VJ day, a period of three to four months.
The novel (well novella really) centres on the May of Teck Club in Kensington. The club is
“for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirt
...more
Mark
' Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions'.
As with every Spark novel, it is the exceptions which make all the difference. This is a great novel. All Sparkian life is here. Odd characters, noble losers, tragic deaths and sinister naughtiness.
The eponymous girls live in the May of Teck club; An up-market boarding house for young women too poor to thrive in flats by themselves, too refined to slum it and with a couple of our 'heroines', one too selfless t
...more
Teresa
Mar 01, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quintessential Spark. Though there's no teacher-figure (only a few impotent spinsters), the action is set in a young women's lodging house that feels like a boarding school a la The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In the future of the main action, there are telephone calls informing of a death that reminded me of Memento Mori. Spark's snideness, sarcasm, black humor and wit are here, including observations on religion and sex, related in innuendos and also bluntly. Repetition and a circling a ...more
Madeline
Dec 27, 2011 Madeline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-list
A stirring, beautiful novel that's deceptively short and light, and starts with what is now one of my favorite opening paragraphs in all literature:

"Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions. The streets of the cities were lined with buildings in bad repair or in no repair at all, bomb-sites piled with stony rubble, houses like giant teeth in which decay had been drilled out, leaving only the cavity. Some bomb-ripped buildings looked like the ruins of anc
...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 19, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
This tiny feather-light novel is like a love-song to a very specific time, April to July 1945, and place, London, a girls' hostel, located just behind Kensington Gardens, such that you can see the Albert Memorial if you shove your head out of one of the third floor windows and crane your neck. So there's all these girls, thrown around by the war, that's why they're in a hostel, working for some ministry or another probably, all poor, mostly middle-class, one of whom is - well, fast, and also the ...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
Mar 01, 2015 Dhanaraj Rajan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Review for this book can be written in many ways. It would all depend on the aspect that the reader tries to focus on. Otherwise, it is a typical Spark - witty, satiric and completely engaging.

I was very much struck by the theme of Faith and Conversion in this novel. As you all must be aware, most of Spark's novels deal with Catholicism/Christian faith. It is not very conspicuous but each novel in one way or other puts forward a opinion of Spark on religion. In fact, a person can very well miss
...more
R.
Aug 13, 2012 R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A frothy black-comic novella about a group of young ladies living and loving in London...only until it hits you that, no, it's more: it's a retelling of the Gospels inside a girls dorm.

Spark couldn't have been more blatant: the [Spoiler Alert] one girl that perishes in the housefire - the one who remains the most selflessly calm, recites scripture and measures the hips of herself and her thirteen trapped companions - was named Joanna Childe.

And from there I'm not really going out on a limb to
...more
James Barker
It’s 1945 and the time between the two armistices of the war and in the Mary of Teck Club, a glorified hostel for girls of slender means in Kensington, a well-flagged tragedy is waiting to strike. Just as in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ Sparks captures perfectly a world of women filled with malice and fast friendships with her delicious, trademark wit. Typically this involves a non-linear story, Sparks’ expertise with analepsis and prolepsis and deceptively shallow portrayals of her character ...more
Deborah Biancotti
Mar 22, 2012 Deborah Biancotti rated it really liked it
Shelves: writer-women
This book really grew on me.

Spark's deceptively cool tone lulled me into an early misperception that nothing was going on in this almost-post-war-Britain tale. Plus the sixties-style verbs used to describe women as 'chattering', 'twittering' and 'gobbling' made me uncomfortable. And then there was protagonist, the mercurial Jane whose affectation of describing her menial job as 'brain work' & her constant striving to "feed my brain" without becoming fat on wartime rations was, to be honest,
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
London, just after the second world war. Basic necessities are scarce, food and clothes are being rationed. Somewhere in the city there is an old residential building turned into a dormitory which was spared from the Nazi bombings. Here is found the May of Teck Club and its first of the Rules of Constitution explains what it is:

"The May of Teck Club exists for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart
...more
Tabuyo
May 01, 2016 Tabuyo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: clásicos
Un libro corto y sin argumento que se me hizo bastante largo. Mi primer acercamiento a Muriel Spark no ha sido muy bueno, espero elegir mejor la próxima vez.
Kats
Nov 17, 2011 Kats rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having enjoyed "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" immensely many years ago, I was delighted when this Spark novel/la was chosen for the December book group meeting. Unfortunately, having finished reading it today, it left me cold, sometimes I was plain bored and at other times I didn't understand what was going on because of the switching back between 1945 and some time in the early 60s. There were way too many quotations, poems etc for my liking, and they distracted from what little plot there was ...more
Barbara A
Apr 22, 2013 Barbara A rated it it was amazing
I feel a crush coming on. Muriel Spark, or her spirit, and I are about to become very good friends.

I've just finished "The Girls of Slender Means", having read it at leisure, but with great care and tremendous pleasure. What a joy it is, and how renewing, to be reminded that the short, perfectly constructed novel can satisfy so fully. Although slender in size, this small book--in comparison to today's overly-wrought and often boringly-padded fiction-- is rich in sardonic observation, fulsome in
...more
Bookcase Jim
Jan 20, 2015 Bookcase Jim rated it really liked it
Didn't think I'd like it very much, but I picked it up because it seemed like a quick read and the subject matter (post WW2 England) wasn't something I'd read much -if anything - about. I lucked out. It's a very humorous read, and the characters are relatively complex given the small amount of page time they get. It can be hard to keep track of everyone, and the ending does leave room for interpretation, but it was still a very interesting plunge into a world I knew nothing about.
It's an authen
...more
McKenzie
What happens when girls of slender means get in a tight spot?


At first I was hesitant and thought Muriel Sparks was narrating in a chatty Brit Aunt style, which I dislike. However, as I read on, I found I enjoyed her darker/cynical comments and found the atmosphere humorous. Especially with the first scenes about the window and found it quite amusing and loved the play on words with the title being used. It was a somber turn of events that altered my mood.

It was also two shocking incidences
...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Sep 11, 2011 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary-lit
This is the first Muriel Spark novel I have read, and I have always had the notion that she was an author one read entirely, not just a random novel here and there. But The Girls of Slender Means is a completely satisfying three hours' read. Spark had me from the first paragraph, and when the novel was over, the incidents of death, murder, and insanity seemed all of a piece with the sort of girls' boarding house comedy I associate with something along the lines of Stage Door.

The setting is Lond
...more
Rhys
Jan 02, 2016 Rhys rated it really liked it
Muriel Spark was a brilliant writer. Her novels are generally short but extremely dense with incident and feeling. They are simultaneously mainstream tales but also experimental works. Spark plays with time and viewpoints and the result is both strongly emotional and intellectually satisfying. A few years ago I read The Driver's Seat and thought it was a minor masterpiece. But this novel is as good, or perhaps even better.

The atmosphere of London in the immediate aftermath of WWII is here evoked
...more
Michelle
Feb 09, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it
Wry and insightful and so well written. There is a lot here for such a slim novel. Highly memorable.
Maureen
Jun 25, 2011 Maureen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
the girls of slender means, my first muriel spark read, didn't bowl me over. i like her style, and the opening chapter led me to believe i'd really like this novel, however for such a short book it really felt long, and sometimes tedious. the highlight were the wonderful scenes involving the squeezing through a bathroom window. i spoke to adrian, who put me onto her, and he gave me grief for choosing this as my first muriel spark. so now i will seek out the prime of miss jean brodie, the driver' ...more
Jeanette (jema)
Meh, just not my cup of tea.
Lisa
Jan 18, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read and enjoyed The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) a good while ago now, and while I enjoyed it very much, The Girls of Slender Means (1963) is now my favourite. It’s a slim novella of only 100 pages or so, but every word is perfectly placed and is generously allusive. Re-readings reveal all kinds of meaning beyond the sparkling wit and black humour. That’s why the book is listed in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 edition) where it is said to be derived from Gerard Manley Hopk ...more
Melissa
May 28, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: directed-reading
This was my first Muriel Spark book, and I found it enjoyable to read for its wit and glimpses of life in mid-century London. The story centers on half a dozen young women in the waning months of World War II, housed in the fictional May of Teck Club in a fashionable part of London. The perspective alternates between real-time narration and brief phone conversations nearly twenty years later amongst the former residents, the "girls of slender means" (young ladies of 'good family' but limited pro ...more
Marc
Aug 05, 2012 Marc rated it it was ok
Londen, 1945, de zomer na de oorlog. Spark focust op een groepje jonge vrouwen dat er het beste van probeert te maken, zowel in het dagelijkse leven (alles is nog op de bon) als in de strijd om de mannen. Ze wonen in een huis voor "minderbedeelde" meisjes, al moet dat hier in meerdere betekenissen worden begrepen. Dit korte verhaal slingert enkele keren heen en weer tussen 1945 en een niet bepaald later tijdstip (begin jaren 60?). Spark is zoals anders ongelofelijk trefzeker in haar tekening, ma ...more
Nicola Mansfield
I've always wanted to read this author and this is my first book of hers. I wasn't overly impressed, found it slow going for the majority. It's a short book and a fast read and while the first third or so I found quite boring there comes a point when I became interested in how it would all turn out. The author uses foreshadowing throughout though, so it is no great surprise as to the end result. The story is both quaint and quirky, having some humorous moments and the writing is witty. Sparks ta ...more
Laura
From BBC radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Few people alive at the time were more delightful, more ingenuous, more movingly lovely, and as it might happen, more savage than the girls of slender means.'

Emilia Fox reads Muriel Spark's rapier-witted portrait of the lives and loves of a group of genteel but down-at-heel young women in postwar London. In the so-called May of Teck Club, a boarding house for single ladies, life carries on as if the world were back to normal: elocution lessons, poetry recitals,
...more
Doreen
Sep 04, 2015 Doreen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
ahhhhh … i can't say that i understand what this book is all about. i learned about may of teck, which was interesting. the story is essentially about a group of ladies staying at a hostel-like club during the WW II. i don't get the fascination on nicholas. the story ended quite abruptly.
Susan Rose
Jun 30, 2012 Susan Rose rated it really liked it
This charming novella very much seems like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie's older, darker, more experienced sister. This book set in the tail end of the second world war, follows a group of young men staying at a hostel in London for young poor girls who work in the city.

As with other Muriel Spark's the humour is sharp, the characters well formed and the dialogue instantly quotable and charming, however for some reason I don't really know why I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Prime of Miss
...more
Louise
Mar 25, 2016 Louise rated it liked it
I read this book many years ago and was captivated by Muriel Spark's writing style. That being said, I didn't remember much about it. This time around I enjoyed the story but actually found the style too intrusive. Overall though, it was an interesting glimpse into single life in London at the end of WW2.
Iva
Oct 16, 2015 Iva rated it it was amazing
Another brilliant and original novel from Muriel Spark. A boarding house, women living together after the 2nd world war and recovering from the disruption. There is always surprises, always clever dialogue, and these are not the Brodie girls. A pleasure.
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500 Great Books B...: The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark 1 3 Jul 26, 2014 01:38PM  
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13093
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
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“it never really occurred to her that literary men, if they like women at all, do not want literary women but girls.” 26 likes
“after thirty years' hostile fellowship with Collie, of course she did quite well understand that collie had a habit of skipping several stages in the logical sequence of her thoughts and would utter apparently disconnected statements, especially when confused by unfamiliar subject or the presence of a man” 1 likes
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