Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Sparks (and some catch up on other Sparks books)

 The Girls of Slender Means is a thorough delight. I'm starting to expect that now that I've read a few Spark books recently. It's a savagely witty comedy about a group of women, mostly young, living in a hostel called The May of Teck club in WWII London. I cannot overstate how funny it is.

But like Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood, or the very different humor of Flannery O'Connor, this skates lightly over some very heavy subtext. Setting this against the backdrop of the war (like the Isherwood), the author's almost ironic use of Catholic faith (similar to O'Connor), and death (like both writers) gives the novella real heft. 

Muriel Spark will be someone I revisit often, as this type of writing yields a lot to rereading, I suspect.

Years ago I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but while I remember it being funny and having a school setting, I had forgotten a lot of what made the book special. Rereading it earlier this year, I was convinced it was a masterpiece. I had forgotten how concerned it is with the rise of fascism, and the danger of charismatic leaders. I had thought of it as maybe a funnier version of something like Dead Poet's Society set in a girls' school in Scotland. It is so much darker and better than that impression.

I'd gotten free copies of several Spark books within the past couple of years and I finally read a few more. Like The Girls of Slender Means, Loitering With Intent was incredibly funny and had a similar heft. I will be returning to these books at some point I'm sure, and reading more Spark. I think I'll read Mememto Mori next, which given the premise, I have very high hopes for.

Aiding and Abetting, Spark's final novel, alas, didn't quite work as well for me, but I'm glad I read it.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Canon

Loitering With Intent - Highly Recommended/Canon Worthy

Girls of Slender Means - Canon Worthy

Aiding and Abetting - Pass

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