24 September 2012

The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark

I've been sort of fascinated by Muriel Spark ever since I read this review of a biography of her, which included this amazing quote:

Spark, a late bloomer, didn’t publish her first novel, “The Comforters,” until 1957, when she was 39. It was based in part on a nervous breakdown she had suffered a few years earlier, brought on, apparently, by eating poorly, reading the complete works of Cardinal Newman and popping Dexedrine until she began to believe that T. S. Eliot was sending her threatening messages.

Doesn't that just make you want to find every book she's written and read it?

This one, alas, isn't as good as some of the others. In terms of narrative structure, it's very similar to the vastly superior Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, weaving drunkenly in time, stitching together various characters (also mostly young women), ominously circling tragedy. It's short, 150 pages or so, but it wasn't until around page 80 that I really got into it. Still though, there is something in the way it chronicles the end days of World War Two in London in this almost blithe, background sort of way. It's not a must-read, but it certainly contributes to my sense that reading Spark's entire oeuvre is a worthy endeavor.

No comments: