Reading the 20th Century discussion

81 views
Favourite Authors > Muriel Spark

Comments Showing 1-50 of 195 (195 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3 4

message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
Muriel Spark is frequently named among the greatest novelists of the 20th century. Her best-known titles include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means and The Mandelbaum Gate, all from the 1960s, but she also published many other acclaimed books, right up to 2004.

Muriel Spark

Which books by Spark have you read and which would you recommend to others?


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
Thanks Judy for starting this thread.


Judy wrote: "Which books by Spark have you read and which would you recommend to others? "

Until earlier this year I'd only read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is enjoyable enough if a little odd) however back in February 2017 I made my second foray into the startling world of Muriel Spark and read Memento Mori.

Memento Mori is a very short book. According to the introduction all Muriel Spark's novels are quite brief. A good thing I'd say.

Who is the mystery caller, or perhaps callers, plaguing a group of aged people? The message is always the same “Remember you must die”. As the frequency of calls increases, the reader gets more familiar with a group of connected friends, relatives and acquaintances, many of whom protect secrets from their past. The reactions to these calls are varied and interesting, and reveal a range of different character types. However, it is only the more relaxed and playful characters who are able to identify the caller’s identity.

Memento Mori is tremendous fun, and a very unusual, quirky, unsentimental, wise, funny, and enjoyable read. There’s plenty of sly humour, and Muriel Spark is wonderfully unsympathetic towards this motley crew. I am resolved to read more books by Muriel Spark in the near future.

And, whatever you do remember....

"Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid."

4/5

Click here to read my review





message 3: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 534 comments Nice review Nigeyb. I've read Memento Mori and Miss Jean Brodie, and enjoyed both.

Just last week I picked up A Far Cry from Kensington for 50p in a library sale so hoping to get to that one soon.


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
I keep meaning to read Aiding and Abetting which is about Lord Lucan. Like most of us, I came to her writing through Miss Jean Brodie. I also want to read The Girls of Slender Means.


message 5: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
Thanks Pamela, and thanks Susan

Pamela wrote: "Just last week I picked up A Far Cry from Kensington for 50p in a library sale so hoping to get to that one soon. "

Do keep us posted as and when you get to it.


message 6: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Judy wrote: "Which books by Spark have you read and which would you recommend to others?"

I went through a short but intense phase of reading Spark several years ago & read:
Loitering with Intent
A Far Cry from Kensington
The Girls of Slender Means
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Driver's Seat
Memento Mori

Of these, my favorite is Loitering with Intent.

I have a couple of her books on my shelves to read (Robinson & Territorial Rights: A Novel)...


message 7: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I've read very little by Muriel Spark, I must admit (I know I read a couple as a young woman but don't even remember which titles they were now). Must explore her work - which would be a good one to start with?


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Well, of course, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is her classic. I suspect that is the starting point for most readers.


message 9: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 38 comments I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie within the last few years and also Memento Mori ages ago. The other day while reading Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley I discovered that she's written a biography of Mary Shelley. Further looking shows she's written about the Brontes as well. I hadn't realized that she wrote any nonfiction. I think it must be time to add some more titles to the mountainous TBR list.


message 10: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 38 comments I'm now reading The Takeover and enjoying it a lot.


message 11: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "I'm now reading The Takeover and enjoying it a lot."

Do keep us posted Barbara. I have yet to read a book by her that I didn't like and would really like to read all her work.


message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 38 comments It was funny and very much of its time. It was written in 1976 and featured drugs, adultery, rip-offs, and a phony cult. I enjoyed it, although I wouldn't say it was a must-read. It was witty and intelligent.


message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
That sounds right up my street Barbara - thanks


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Nigeyb's suggestion of listening to the podcast, Backlisted, led me to give them another try and listen to the episode on Momento Mori. It strikes me that she writes fairly short novels and, as such, would be an ideal Buddy Read... In December we have W. Somerset Maugham, in January we have Elizabeth Bowen. I would like to suggest a Muriel Spark to cheer up dreary February? Any takers and any suggestions of titles?


message 15: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I would like to suggest a Muriel Spark to cheer up dreary February? Any takers and any suggestions of titles? "

I'd be up for it Susan. I'm keen to read more Muriel.

So far I've only read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori - so anything other than those two would be enthusiastically received by me.


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Sounds good. Anyone have any particular titles they are keen to read?


message 17: by Pamela (last edited Nov 10, 2017 04:28AM) (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 534 comments I would like to suggest A Far Cry from Kensington as have had it waiting for a while.


message 18: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 751 comments The only one I have read is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie so (if I can fit it in) any of the others would be fine.


message 19: by Susan (last edited Nov 10, 2017 02:51AM) (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry from Kensington

When Mrs Hawkins tells Hector Bartlett he is a 'pisseur de copie', that he 'urinates frightful prose', little does she realise the repercussions. Holding that 'no life can be carried on satisfactorily unless people are honest' Mrs Hawkins refuses to retract her judgement, and as a consequence, loses not one, but two much-sought-after jobs in publishing. Now, years older, successful, and happily a far cry from Kensington, she looks back over the dark days that followed, in which she was embroiled in a mystery involving anonymous letters, quack remedies, blackmail and suicide.

Looks good, Pamela. I will throw a couple more into the mix to choose from (people may have others):

Aiding and Abetting

Aiding and Abetting is Muriel Spark's mordant and witty satirical take on the true crime genre, a novel of fraudsters, imposters, murderers and aiders and abetters.

In Paris, a psychiatrist finds herself treating two elderly gentlemen who both claim to be the notorious British fugitive Lord Lucan. But who, if either, is the real Lord Lucan? Can she discover the truth before her own dark secret is revealed?

The Abbess of Crewe

The Abbess of Crewe is Muriel Spark's razor sharp, wickedly humorous and surreal satire of a real life political scandal - reimagined within the claustrophobic walls of a convent. A steely, Machiavellian nun, secret surveillance, corruption, cloak-and-dagger plotting, rivalries and a rigged election all send the wonderful cast of characters into disarray as a chain of events unfold that become weirder and weirder.

All fairly short, all on kindle.


message 20: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 751 comments The Abbess of Crewe sounds very interesting - I heard Ali Smith talking about that one in her Goldsmiths lecture:
https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/...


message 21: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Thanks for posting, Hugh. I will take a look.


message 22: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Both Aiding and Abetting and The Abbess of Crewe are unfamiliar to me but Susan's post makes me want to read them! I would participate in a buddy read of either.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Apparently, The Abbess of Crewe is based on the Watergate scandal! It does sound very intriguing, I agree, but I am happy to read any of her novels.


message 24: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1290 comments I recently picked up The Mandelbaum Gate. A combination of espionage thriller and journey of faith. A recent convert to Catholicism trying to meet up with her boyfriend who is on an archaeological search for the Dead Sea Scrolls.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Sounds interesting, Jan. I'd like to read all her work, to be honest. I think I have her biography lurking on my kindle too and would be interested to read that.


message 26: by Brina (new)

Brina I have the Prime of Miss Jane Brodie to read in a challenge next year so I would read that.


message 27: by Val (new)

Val | 1709 comments I read every one of her novels I could get hold of when I was a schoolgirl and very little since. I am happy to read any of them again, but would be even happier to discover a new one with you, such as The Finishing School or Aiding and Abetting.


message 28: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
We have quite a few titles now, but we do need to narrow it down to one (of course, we can always have more Muriel Spark Buddy Reads, but one to start with).

So far, we have:

A Far Cry from Kensington
Aiding and Abetting
The Finishing School
The Abbess of Crewe
The Mandelbaum Gate

Shall we do a mini vote? Just say ONE out of the above that you would like to read.


message 29: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
I am happy to read any of them


message 30: by Val (new)

Val | 1709 comments I suggested two, so I will choose Aiding and Abetting and you can remove The Finishing School from the list.


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry From Kensington: 0 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 1 vote
The Abbess of Crewe: 0 votes
The Mandelbaum Gate: 0 votes

I would be happy with any of them too, but I will have a think and try to plump for one of them. They are very short and we can be flexible and do more, obviously. However, as we do need to have some sort of organisation, let's see if any are favoured. I am tempted by the middle two, in particular, but they all look great and I haven't read any of them.


message 32: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (bibliohound) | 534 comments I'll vote for A Far Cry from Kensington.


message 33: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1290 comments I have read Aiding and Abetting - that was my introduction. I expect I could discuss it although it has been several years,

And the only one I have from this list is The Mandelbaum Gate.


message 34: by Susan (last edited Nov 11, 2017 10:14PM) (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry From Kensington: 1 Vote
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 0 votes
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

I am most tempted by the middle two, but as I know nothing about Watergate (other than it happened, involved phone tapping and was a US political scandal) I have a feeling that Aiding and Abetting (about Lord Lucan and I know a fair bit about that particular scandal) will make more sense to me.


message 35: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 751 comments The Abbess of Crewe gets my vote


message 36: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Thanks, Hugh. If we can't get a majority vote, then maybe we'll have to re-think Spark. Still, there is plenty of time, so let's leave it a week and see what happens.

A Far Cry From Kensington: 1 Vote
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote


message 37: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4673 comments Mod
I'd like to read A Far Cry from Kensington - it's said to be autobiographical, largely set in the publishing world of the 1950s, so I think that will add interest.


message 38: by Emma (new)

Emma (keeperofthearchives) I've never read any of hers so am open to trying any!


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry From Kensington: 2 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

Thanks, Judy.

Good to hear some of us are happy to try any Muriel Spark, but it would really help if you could plump for one of the above.


message 40: by Emma (new)

Emma (keeperofthearchives) Susan wrote: "A Far Cry From Kensington: 2 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

Thanks, Judy.

Good to hear some of us are happy to try any Muriel Spark, bu..."


In that case, i'll vote for Far Cry as I intrigued by the story and it has glowing reviews...


message 41: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry From Kensington: 3 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

Thanks, Emma. Much appreciated.


message 42: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
I will leave this open until the end of the week. At the moment, A Far Cry From Kensington is in the lead - Pamela's excellent suggestion, set in the publishing world. A world, I am sure, dear to all our bookish hearts!


message 43: by Nigeyb (last edited Nov 13, 2017 12:58AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 10371 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "At the moment, A Far Cry from Kensington is in the lead..."


There's a copy of A Far Cry from Kensington in my library service, so put me down for that one too (I was originally happy to read anything by Muriel Spark)...

A Far Cry from Kensington: 4 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

When Mrs Hawkins tells Hector Bartlett he is a 'pisseur de copie', that he 'urinates frightful prose', little does she realise the repercussions. Holding that 'no life can be carried on satisfactorily unless people are honest' Mrs Hawkins refuses to retract her judgement, and as a consequence, loses not one, but two much-sought-after jobs in publishing. Now, years older, successful, and happily a far cry from Kensington, she looks back over the dark days that followed, in which she was embroiled in a mystery involving anonymous letters, quack remedies, blackmail and suicide.




message 44: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Sounds good, Nigeyb.


message 45: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 384 comments I'm interested in reading her, as I haven't read any before, but none of those are available for me at the moment. My library has audiobooks of The Finishing School, Loitering With Intent, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Memento Mori, so I'll get to her at some point. :) I'm glad to hear she's good.


message 46: by Cordelia (new)

Cordelia (anne21) Hugh wrote: "The Abbess of Crewe sounds very interesting - I heard Ali Smith talking about that one in her Goldsmiths lecture:
https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/......"


I read "The Abbess of Crewe" with another group. It can certainly be described as "interesting". Also quite short, so a quick read.


message 47: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
So far, it is looking like A Far Cry from Kensington will be our choice. I will leave the mini vote open until Friday, if anyone wants to vote for the choices below.

A Far Cry from Kensington: 4 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 2 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote


message 48: by Leslie (new)

Leslie My vote is for Aiding and Abetting but would read any of them other than the current leader (A Far Cry from Kensington) as I have already read that one.


message 49: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
A Far Cry from Kensington: 4 Votes
Aiding and Abetting: 3 votes
The Abbess of Crewe: 1 vote
The Mandelbaum Gate: 1 vote

Thanks for your vote, Leslie. I think Aiding and Abetting is quite popular. I would certainly like to read it. Muriel Spark's novels are quite short, so we could do A Far Cry from Kensington in February and do Aiding and Abetting the following month, or later in the year.

I would like to say that I am really looking forward to A Far Cry from Kensington too!

Aiding and Abetting is about Lord Lucan. I read A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan A Different Class of Murder The Story of Lord Lucan by Laura Thompson a while ago and thought it was really interesting, so it might be a great idea to do them together, perhaps, or on alternate months?

Anyway, that is for the future!


message 50: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10625 comments Mod
Our February Buddy Read will be A Far Cry from Kensington A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

Thanks for the suggestion, Pamela. Looking forward to it already!


« previous 1 3 4
back to top