Megan's Reviews > The Driver's Seat

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
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Jan 25, 12

bookshelves: 4-stars, fiction
Read in January, 2012

Lise is going on a holiday, her first in years. Most people Lise knows would agree that she (with her hysterical laughter-turned-sobs and her lack of patience) needs one. Naples may seem ideal for getting away, but escape for Lise is a very particular form of escape, and what happens on her trip is far from restful.

So, this was far more to my taste than The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It's a dark, intense novella, focused and dense and with a sense of mounting if vague pressure, with a very intense protagonist, and I quite liked Spark's writing style and narration. I found the sense of time and place (1970s Europe) vividly depicted, and it quietly reflected (and interacted with) the anxiety of Lise and some of the other characters. Spark does an excellent job with descriptions of places: Lise's flat, and the idea of her living--barely--in a place where all things of utility are ultimately, relentlessly hidden, is so dire and bleak and still a little funny, the way it's described. (I'm going to guess that mental illness is something Spark writes about often, and so as I read more from her, I think I'm interested in understanding what she's doing with characters with mental illnesses. I totally understand calling parts of this book darkly comic, but I'm still hesitantly uncomfortable labelling any of it funny when the book as a whole centers around a mentally-ill woman's desperation and attempt to gain some control over her life.)

It's a short book, but it's deeper than it looks.
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