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Not to Disturb

3.2  ·  Rating details ·  340 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
A storm rages round the towers of the big house near Geneva. Behind the locked doors of the library, the Baron, the Baroness and their handsome young secretary are not to be disturbed. In the attic, the Baron's lunatic brother howls and hurls plates at his keeper.

But in the staff quarters, all is under control. Under the personal supervision of Lister, the Baron's incompar
Paperback, 96 pages
Published August 25th 1977 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1971)
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MJ Nicholls
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The closest Spark came to experimenting with her usual modus for writing a novel: this one obscures plot info to nouveau roman levels of mystery, making the reader complicit in the act of assembling the novel’s plot and meaning.
Nate D
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: far-sighted domestics
Recommended to Nate D by: the closed door to the library
A kind of inside out locked-room mystery, where the room is locked but the players yet live. The ensuing conflict, instead, has been finely pinpointed by the house staff, who are already selling the movie deals and making preparations for the future, while timeline and linear causality are eschewed in favor of the fatedness of a self-conscious plotline. But rather than become a convoluted metafictive exercise, Spark's light touch and sparkling dialogue keep his in the realm of an eccentric, witt ...more
Thanks to the excellent year-end stock in the English language section at our local used bookstore, I lucked out this Christmas with four beautiful Muriel Spark paperbacks. With eight hours of flight time from the US back to Iceland ahead of me, I decided to start with this "curiously disturbing" novella, and basically read it through in one sitting.

As with all of Spark's novels that I've read thus far, Not to Disturb drops you into the story once it's already started—there's no preamble, no ba
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Deliciously creepy. Perfect for two days before Halloween, really
Lukasz Pruski
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
"'Here they come,' says Lister to his troop, 'Klopstock and barrel.'"

Muriel Spark's outrageously funny novella Not to Disturb (1971) demonstrates the immense power of prose: the power to create alternate realities. While Ms. Spark's reality is not entirely compatible with what we are accustomed to, it is internally consistent and believable. The novella reminds me of René Magritte's surrealistic paintings that challenge our traditional - not to say cliché - perceptions of reality.

The story takes
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
The use of satire and irony are trademark characteristics Muriel Spark's writing although with this novella, her technique is not nearly effective, nor compelling as some of her other works such as "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" or even "The Comforters." After finishing, I could not help but ask myself: what does it all add up to? My conclusion is, not a whole lot. The story unfolds very much like a 19th century Romantic play by Joanae Baille or Mary Robinson that is interested in gender relati ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, scottish
I didn't like or (admittedly) understand this book. The blurb on the back of the book gave me the impression that I was reading a standard murder mystery, but honestly the murder takes a backseat to the rest of the book, which is about god knows what. Hell, it's not even a mystery, because there's no intrigue. What it really reads like is a transcript of all the boring things that socialites talk about rather than a story.
Feb 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Agree with other reviewers who felt that this dark comedy read like a play; it reminded me of Pirandello or Beckett, crossed with Downton Abbey. I love her at her best, she has become one of my favorite writers, but this is definitely a product of its time (1971) and a sketch compared with some of her masterpieces.
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
Told with great self-control this novella convincingly weaves between the sinister and the silly.
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-fiction
Like Downton Abbey on laudanum...Quick-witted and critical, Spark provides a modern look at the very human natures of The Help and the needs of The Media.
Sep 13, 2010 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mom
Shelves: strange
What a strange little book. I've been reading it on the subway the past few nights and it's so so bizzare - reminds me of surreal Russian writers my mom likes like Kharms and Vvedensky.
Matt Hunt
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ditched, 2017
The writing is brilliant but I just could get into the novel. It didn't really flow for me.
Michael McNally
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting read. It's the bits that Muriel Spark leaves out that make you work. Great language and very funny in places.
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: jane-eyre
This is a very short novel, which delves into it's character's personalities and motivations in a rather unapproachable, abbreviated style. The story is from the point of view of the servants who know that their employers are about to commit a murder suicide and plan for it accordingly, by seeing how they can profit the most from the situation. The reader is thrown into the midst of their preparations and must put together the pieces of the backstory as the author drops the clues and hints amids ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: minimalism
As this novella opens, the domestic staff of a baron’s estate in Switzerland are responding to a tragedy, contemplating the reactions they will allow themselves in front of law enforcement and the media. Is it the Baron Klopstock who is dead? The Baroness? But wait--what’s this? The tragedy hasn’t occurred yet! And what is the situation with all that mysterious screaming coming from someone referred to only as “him in the attic”?

This is a very clever, witty, neo-gothic story that reads much like
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It starts out in the middle of a conversation. And as the conversation unravels, it's hard to believe that what they're saying is really what they're discussing. Confused? Yeah. Me too. I was confused for about half the story (which is only about 40ish pages anyway), but the strong characters and dialogue led me through this little mind game of suspense and intrigue. And even though I had moments of being downright lost, it was interesting to see a writer use that confusion to her advantage. It ...more
This was a short novella around 100 pages and a re- release with a lovely matt black cover. Set in a grand house the Baron, his wife and secretary lock themselves in the library with strict instructions not to be disturbed. Soon there are shouts and screams and all manner of strange goings on but still the servants obey their orders. The night is long and the morning brings the scene of a crime where the servants are prepared with false testimonies while a twisted murder plot unfolds. Dark and c ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was interesting. It's only the second Spark that I've read after The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and it may not have been the most representative choice with its experimental flavour. It's an upstairs/downstairs kind of scenario that focuses on the world of the servants to a Baron living outside Geneva. Somehow the servants seem to know in advance that the Baron and Baroness and a secretary are going to die during the night and are making preparations. The novella consists largely ...more
Jun 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
I read this book because it was recommended by Entertainment Weekly as a title that the critic said deserved to be a success and I have to say I was extremely disappointed. I'm just glad it was short as only its length encouraged me to finish it. I just don't think it translated well into today's society, given its upstairs/downstairs dark comedy. Perhaps in its day it spoke to people, or perhaps I am deaf to its humor.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Une comédie noire qui ressemble un peu à du théâtre de Ionesco : ses personnages pourraient être sorti du théâtre de l'absurde et beaucoup de situations sont empruntées au vaudeville comme les deux amis de Victor Passerat qui tentent tout pour rentrer dans le château et qui passent la nuit à frapper à la porte, à qui l'on interdit de sortir du parc et qui perdent les clés de leur voiture.
ça se lit très agréablement.
May 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I adore Muriel Spark at her darkest, and this slim novella echoes some of the controlled, eerie chaos of "The Driver's Seat". I wanted to be a sympathetic participant in the fervid antics of the household, but unfortunately remained a distant observer. I love her assumption of normality in the face of insanity, the cast of characters designed to discombobulate, and really, a plotless novella carried through only by sheer genius. 2 stars, but this is my failing, not hers!
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: british
1971. I assumed I would like this book, but apparently Muriel Spark is too clever for me. I really 'don't get it' in this book.
Consequently, I suppose, I didn't find much in it to enjoy.

I read somewhere that she once said this was her own favorite of her books.

It was heartening to see that one person on goodreads really appreciated the book, and took the trouble to tell us in detail why.
John Mccullough
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Muriel Spark writes a wide variety of books. This is obviously an experiment, a walk in the wild. It is "Remains of the Day" plus a touch of early Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse written by Samuel Beckett considering how to write "Waiting for Godot." Complete with Deus ex Machina! A good, amusing short read.
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
A new find for me--couldn't even find one in the DPL system. Short little novel with an unusual plot and characters--I haven't read Muriel Spark for years and enjoyed remembering her style. Definitely worth the bother to find it!
Persephone Abbott
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Gothic is hard work. All the ideas are there, all the characters slightly reminiscent of a cross between "Rocky Horror" and "Clue" -- however, I failed to be as entertained as I would have liked to have been while reading "Do Not Disturb".
J.C. Phillipps
I read a description of this book as being like Downton Abbey if the downstairs staff was all waiting for the upstairs people to kill each other - and that's about it!

Different. Intriguing. (Some parts I was a little confused about.) Otherwise enjoyable.
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: britfic
A light entertainment, but not on the level of Graham Greene's entertainments. A big disappointment after The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Best thing about it was the bizarre dialogue and the anarchic wordplay.
Task: A book under 150 pages - 3.5/5 stars
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
A very strange little book, worth reading for its cleverness and Spark's fantastic use of language.
Jun 10, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: own
Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark (1977)
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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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“I'm old-fashioned beyond my years.” 17 likes
“To put it squarely, as I say in my memoir, the eternal triangle has come full circle.” 4 likes
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