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The Driver's Seat

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  6,179 ratings  ·  897 reviews
Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.
Paperback, 107 pages
Published April 27th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1970)
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Stephen Theaker
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
MR E There's an old song
And 'Inky pinky' is a set of counting-out rhymes, to select a person 'at random' by elimina…more
There's an old song
And 'Inky pinky' is a set of counting-out rhymes, to select a person 'at random' by eliminating the others.
The cannibal link is 'Do you want to eat me up?'(less)

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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  6,179 ratings  ·  897 reviews

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Petra-X Off having adventures
Was it murder or was it suicide? And did that matter to the 'heroine'? This is a novella, a quick read and perhaps one that is better read at one sitting so that the tension can build. Its totally upfront, we know what is going to happen a quarter of the way through the book and it just remains for the story to play itself out. How it does is what you think of after you've finished the book, and in fact that is probably the most enjoyable bit. Its very clever and creepy creepy creepy.

This is a v
Adam Dalva
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Super fast, gripping novella about a manic woman (and Spark writes her mania brilliantly) traveling to a southern country in search of a man to, well, I won't spoil it. The action is fast and funny, the contemporary descriptions sharp (of course - it's Spark), and though we learn where we're going early on, it's a mystery about how we will get there. The story relies on one coincidence too many, and a middle section in a mall drags*

*here's an aside about novella middles, in the middle of this no

On the Saturday morning of a weekend away, I finished a wonderful book (Girl, Woman, Other). But I couldn’t find the book I was sure I’d packed to read next. The prospect of a weekend without a book felt like not having a wallet, glasses, or knickers! I admit to a few tears and even shaking. On our way to lunch, we briefly stopped at a second-hand bookshop. I needed a book I was confident I’d enjoy and that would fit in my small handbag. I had recently enjoyed my first Spark, The Prim
A disturbed woman's journey of conscious self-annihilation...a perverse fairy tale in which the "prince" becomes a vehicle of destruction...and a brutally piercing statement on female victimization and empowerment.

Yeah...there's a lot to admire in this work.

That said, I must admit that the story didn't engage me emotionally the way a work dealing with themes of this magnitude usually will. My thinking was engaged, and my philosophical curiosity was certainly feeling it, but my compassion, my inn
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing

My apologies, dear Muriel Spark, I can see a comparison forcing its way into this review of your short masterpiece, as I found a catastrophic similarity to a work not worthy of being mentioned in your presence. I am sorry, but as you know, sometimes things just have to happen, we know it, and we can't do anything about the stains we will leave behind. It is not your fault, your story was here first, you have been innocently assaulted by a brute! My only excuse is that your lovely

My first Muriel Spark. She got a lot attention from my fellow readers lately and I’ve been curious her myself for a while too. Hmm, well, hmm… Not sure however how I feel with this short novel at all. I don’t mind quirkiness, in fact I’m very fond of it, likewise dark humour and somewhat morbid fascination with death or sense of alienation and destination. Muriel Spark is very economical, she can pack a lot in her writing indeed, and as I know most of her works could be defined as short stories
Violet wells
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
A couple of years ago we were all told in Britain to take back control. But when people are licensed to express openly what they feel it's sometimes a shock to discover just how much hankering after ugliness there is in the human spirit. Social media too has borne this out. It's all very well for popular cinema to keep churning out these narratives about the beauty of the human spirit but really they only tell half the story. You might say it's that other half of the story which always interests ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Driver’s Seat is an usual story- usual to Muriel Spark, but unusual in every possible sense to the world, for its strangeness is not something which I’ve previously encountered. I finished the book in just two sittings separated by mundane office hours but that doesn’t bring any solace to me to get rid of weird taste it leaves me with. Having said that you cannot deny that Spark was peerless, sparkling, inventive and intelligent- in a word -the crème de la crème, as mentioned by Ian Rankin. ...more
So brief it could be a short story, so tightly wound it could be a mouse-trap, so visually powerful it could be a psychedelic trip, so frighteningly memorable it could be a Hitchcock film.

But it's a Muriel Spark book in which many of her usual structural elements are present, elements such as formidability, isolation, predestination, mania and murder, though it's all ferociously pared back as in the mid-twentieth century architectural movement known as Brutalism.

I'll leave it at that.
Paul Bryant
Aug 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
Muriel Spark had enough brains for two normal people but this little novel was almost completely stupid. It was like a terrible joke whose heavily adumbrated punchline is a tiresome and obvious inversion of normal reality, like a banana slipping on the skin of a man. You carry on reading this book, and it is very readable, and doesn't take long, because you can't believe what you are suspecting will be the outcome will really be the outcome, and it is, that's all, no explanation, no nothing. Spa ...more
Sep 22, 2016 added it
Shelves: brits, waaaa

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

I tell you, you're on your own with this one. I cannae help. Don't come here looking for an interpretation, analysis, outline, summary or evaluation. I havenae a clue what she was up to either.

Naw, and three times it is I've read it the noo, can you believe that? THREE TIMES. Well, it's very short. Naw, that's the thing, it doesnae help. In fact it just gets more confusing, cos you keep on finding wee dots that just wullnae join up, d'ya ken? I have this theory
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, uk, 20-ce
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a strange, disconcerting novella, a kind of inverted crime novel and black comedy in which we know what seems to be the most important part of the ending very early.

The main protagonist is Lise, and we are introduced to her as she is arguing with a shop assistant trying to sell her a stain resistant dress. We can see from the start that Lise is at best eccentric and possibly mad, and we follow her demise almost in slow motion. As ever with Spark there are some very funny observations, but
Steven Godin
Muriel Spark featured a lot on my GR feeds in the last year or so, and I always wanted to join the party and read more of her myself, after being impressed with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I plan to do so in 2020, but hope whatever I do choose to read turns out better than this slim novel, which was written well enough, but wasn't as enjoyable as Jean Brodie. In fact, it was quite shocking and dark, as Spark delivers the story of Lise, who is


seeking someone to do her in.
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is loco, man. We're talking Miss Lonelyhearts-loco, Lime Twig-loco, Violent Bear It Away-loco. A death-haunted fever dream that hits you like absinthe and leaves you wide-eyed and paranoid. Loved it. ...more
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
what did I just read
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bechdel-pass
This is the sort of book that crawls into your heart. I read the first half of it on the train up to see my family for new year and I arrived inexplicably on edge; it took me a few minutes to realise I had to blame Spark. When I'd finished I put the book down like something too hot, and kept on reflecting on it for a while as I drifted off to sleep.

One thing I reinterpreted retrospectively was the reason for Spark's flat-toned foreshadowing. She was really playing with the concept of authorship
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I’m not sure what to say about this work, different from any other Spark I’ve read. While reading I’d stop to think, did I read what I just thought I read? A few times, near the beginning, in reference to what the main character’s thinking, Spark writes Who knows? and at its last repetition, I thought, well, if you don’t know, I sure don’t.

My ultimate takeaway is this is a story of knowing your fate and embracing it, even facilitating it. Clues are dropped along the way that Lise knows why s
This is a strange little book, but one I won't soon forget. To say there is foreshadowing is an understatement; Spark tells you right away what happens to Lise, the star of the show. But that doesn't take away from the story at all. You can be sure of one thing if you pick this book up, Muriel Spark's writing will not disappoint. ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"I will not be insulted!" shouts our main character Lise. But why and what has caused her to react in this way to a young salesgirl?

From the outset in this novella Muriel Spark creates characters that are less than likeable but also complicated, hurt and abused. Lise's journey and denouement is a statement possibly of women, the sixties and her own place in a changing world as much as her direct situation and circumstance

The Driver's Seat is not one of Spark's best liked book or received books,
Sidharth Vardhan
A kind of novella that spends more time in your mind than on the page. Spark does it brilliantly by working under-the-hood. It is no spoiler that it is all about Lise executing her plan to kill herself. And so it is "it’s a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sort of girls that you wouldn’t leave lying about in your drawing-room for the servants to pick up." - the lines Lise used to describe the last book she read. But the why never gets answered clearly.

By the en
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Driver's Seat is a weird, evasive story in which we are introduced to a chameleon-like protagonist named Lise. In an opening that is instantly unnerving, the first scene sees her raging at a shop assistant for daring to suggest she should buy a stain-proof dress - rather than seeing this as a positive, she loudly berates the girl for implying she would spill food on her clothes. Despite having led an ordered, somewhat mundane life - she's worked in the same office for sixteen years - Lise se ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not at all what I expected, but in the good way that shows you a surprising side of a writer. I had read Muriel Spark's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," which I liked, so I wasn't anticipating something as dark and ominous as "The Driver's Seat" turned out to be.

It's the story of the last few days in the life of Lise, an unhappy career woman who takes a trip to Italy. She buys a garish dress and loudly tells everyone she meets that she has a date with her boyfriend. We learn early
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ooft. That's how you write a fucking novella. ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Lise doesn't make sense. She acts like a lunatic - not even a real lunatic, a lunatic's conception of a lunatic. All the way through the book, I thought: "Really? This is the plot? This seems very far-fetched." It seems like a story a lunatic would come up with. She gets herself into very dangerous situations with men - some would even say she's leading them on and then stealing their cars. She keeps mumbling about her imaginary boyfriend, whom she's looking for, who doesn't exist yet. "Will you ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This review was first posted on BookLikes:

Also, before you read on, please note that this review contains SPOILERS!

What kind of person would go ballistic on finding out that the dress she was looking to buy is made of a fabric that does not stain?

Anyone? Anyone?

Nope, I don't know anyone to do something like this either but guessing from the way the story of The Driver's Seat develops, Lise is not like most people - Lise is having a breakdown.

I say I
Ben Loory
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
muriel spark really intrigues me, almost enough to make me break my rule about not learning anything about writers i admire. there's an air about her writing which is almost evil, yet at the same time they seem profoundly moral. it would not surprise me to learn that she was a nun, or maybe killed forty people with an axe. or both. but, in any case, this book was a delight, and made my hair stand on end the whole time.

the other day i read a wikipedia article about judit polgar, the female chess
I apparently read this book already: it has a review that sounds like I wrote it but I have no memory of reading it. I enjoyed it both times though.

Spark is a writer with a dark (almost vicious) sense of humor. She makes me laugh uncomfortably, feeling bad about myself for laughing while simultaneously feeling creeped out. This book is no exception; in fact, it may be the pinnacle of her kind of writing.

Lise is a somewhat (and maybe more) crazy office worker who is off for a holiday in some und
Paul Sánchez Keighley
A silly little book with a silly little premise. Having read The Prime of Miss Jean Brody and The Girls of Slender Means , I now approach a Spark book with cautious interest. Those are two deceptively intelligent books. As for this one, there is nothing particularly clever about it.

I cannot go into details because it is so short and shallow it is terribly easy to spoil. In essence, it is one of those books where you are first told how it is going to end and read on to find out how said co
Nov 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novel (novella, really, or very long short story) published in 1970, Spark turns traditional gender relations on their head. As the buoyant, frenetic Lise, dressed in clashing colors, goes on holiday in Genoa on the hunt for "her type," she meets the elderly Mrs. Fiedke. The two team up for a shopping spree (slippers for Mrs F's nephew; a food mixer, among other things, for Lise):

"They are demanding equal rights with us," says Mrs. Fiedke. "That's why I never vote with the Liberals. Perf
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Reading 1001: The Driver's Seat, by Muriel Spark 2 17 Oct 30, 2018 11:45AM  
The Drive-In: Providence, RI 1 11 Nov 06, 2013 07:07AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: July {2011} Discussion -- THE DRIVER'S SEAT by Muriel Spark 101 215 Nov 07, 2011 11:22AM  
Spoiler alert (see topic inside) 4 40 Nov 04, 2011 04:32AM  

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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 Eliot

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