Lisa's Reviews > The Finishing School

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
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Apr 19, 2010

really liked it
Read from April 16 to 18, 2010

I read A Far Cry from Kensington and really liked her style of writing, characters, and the little mystery involved in the story. I'm a sucker for British fiction, and she was a lovely surprise, though she's been writing for a long time. Want to read all her books and this one caught my eye on the shelf as the next one.

Finished it last night; it's less than 200 pages so a quick read. I'll continue to read her books as I realy enjoy her economy of words that still convey so much. The story centers on Rowland and his wife, Nina who run this College Sunrise, a second- or third-tier mobile finishing school they founded with only a handful of students and teachers (Rowland and Nina and one other). Nina's class is especially ridiculous, but she does try to instill some common sense into them, as well. Rowland is trying to write a novel while teaching a creative writing course and having no luck at all with it. Along comes Chris, a red-headed 17 year old writing genius, it seems, who begins a fictional account of the story of Mary Queen of Scots, the murder of her husband, and her closest confidant, David Rizzio. Fiction it is, too, as he seems to have no concept of history, does no research, etc., but feels quite sure he'll be a published and acclaimed author in no time.

Of course, Rowland becomes increasingly obsessed and jealous of this kid, with thoughts of murder even running through his head. Chris seems just as nuts, feeding off Rowland's jealousy in getting his book written. I sensed a kind of flirtation between the two of them, as well.Nina, meanwhile, is aware of this but planning on leaving Rowland as she's met and fallen in love with a neighbor, Israel Brown, in their school's current Swiss town location.

The outcome of this storyline surprised me and so will give no more away. The characters are all very polite (the British way) but brutal at the same time (which can be the British way, too). I didn't feel much sympathy for any of the characters yet it was a satisfying read.
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