“One day in the middle of the twentieth century I sat in a graveyard” Loitering with Intent is a fictional novel written by Muriel Spark which is set in 1940’s London and recounts the memoirs of Fleur Talbot, would-be writer. Fleur works for an Autobiographical Association directed by Sir Quentin Oliver, as the novel progresses a debate arises; what is fact and what is fiction? The novel is written in the first person and through the point of view of the protagonist, Fleur. Spark does not change the point of view throughout the novel which makes it easier for a protagonist-reader relationship to be created. However, since Fleur’s character is cold and unpleasant, the reader wants to distance themselves. Muriel Spark writes with a frozen and crisp tone, leaving the reader sapped of energy. The reason the novel is tedious and bleak is because the memoirs of Fleur are actually the true feelings of the author. Since the novel is a meta-text this being writing within writing, it can be hard for the reader to differentiate between the two worlds. The differentiation becomes even more confusing since Spark tries to divert herself from the normal narrative. More time is spent on trying to figure out whether the action is taking place in “Warrander Chase” than actually spending time taking in the writing.
That being said the characterisation is brilliant, extravagant colourful characters are created which remind the reader that the piece of writing is supposed to be entertaining, “I liked to see her shaking, withered hand with its talons pointing accusingly, I liked the four greenish teeth through which she hissed and cackled”. The book however is slow paced and the climax occurs far too late for such a short novel.
If stale, dull, cold, predictable novels is what you are looking for then go ahead, if not then leave this book where it is set, in the past.