Books

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

This was my third Muriel Spark book, and I continue to like her style and prose. There is something distinct and a bit strange about her writing. The characters seem both real and unreal at the same time.

This does not have a memorable plot as The Driver’s Seat, but I found its character even more formed than in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The book takes place in London after the VE Day of the Second World War, but before VJ day. The slender means refer to poor young, single women living in a boarding house in that austere time and how they managed. It seems to be an accurate portrayal of young women during that time as they borrowed clothes, swapped coupons, and engaged in relationships with men. The climax of the book also highlights the effect of war into their lives,

This microcosm feeling of this world created by a small group of women reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford actually except a little more moody and darker of course. I like that about Spark. It lends realism and frankness especially since I read this after a fluffy YA novel devoid of this kind of reality.

This was my second Spark book of the year, and I am starting to think it won’t be my last either. Nick Hornby wrote about how satisfying her short novels are and I concur heartedly. They are not hard to read, but they still are provocative in their own way.

Read May 11th 2013.

4 Comments

    • athena

      Hi Susan! I’ve enjoyed all three of Spark’s books. I would say this one or Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the best to start off with. She’s dark, but she’s much less dark in the latter than in the other two. The most memorable is The Driver’s Seat which is very strange and disturbing. There are a number of others I still have yet to read. I find it fascinating how she writes women. Good luck!

  • Barbara

    I’d forgotten she even existed it’s so long since I’ve read anything of hers. Thanks for reminding me. I must go back and do some re-reading.

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