Muriel Spark Reading Week… is here!

Was it really only the beginning of February when I first suggested a reading week for Muriel Spark, and a week later when Harriet had agreed to be co-host, and Thomas had designed us this wonderful badge?

It feels much longer ago.  Well, I was thrilled and delighted when (not including my own comments) those posts got over sixty replies between them.  That’s a lot of potential posts this week!  My hope is that we’ll manage to read all Muriel Spark’s twenty-two novels between us – not to mention her short stories, autobiography, plays, poetry, and biographies.  I’ve included a list of all her novels at the end of this post.

The Giveaway!

Open Road have kindly offered a free Muriel Spark ebook (review copy via NetGalley) to one lucky person – provided that person has an e-reader, and is in the US or EU (excluding UK).  If that’s you, then pop a comment in the comment box, saying you’d like it, and I’ll randomly select a winner at the end of the week.  The options are The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie or The Hothouse by the East River – I’d argue they’re her most and least well-known novels.

The Schedule

Since Harriet and I are co-hosting, we’ll be alternating posts this week.  So I’ll be posting on Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday, and Harriet will be posting on Wednesday and Friday and Sunday.  As luck would have it, I’ll actually be away for a bit this week, and thus some of my posts are pre-scheduled to appear.  So I might be playing catch-up – but will do my best to read every Muriel Spark post that appears!

How did you meet Muriel Spark?

Let’s throw this open to discussion in the comments here.  How did you first encounter Muriel Spark?  Perhaps this is your first time reading her, but if not, I’d love to know how you first came to try out one of her novels, and how things progressed from there?

Oddly I’d always believed that I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie first, but consulting my reading diary it turns out that I first read The Girls of Slender Means.  I did, however, read both in 2005.  Neither made much of an impression on me – I probably read them too fast, for a start – and I didn’t return to Spark again until five years later.  A few bloggers had raved about The Driver’s Seat – and I thought it brilliant.  Suddenly, I was hooked.  I haven’t looked back since.

Over to YOU!

Have fun this week!  Do, please, let me or Harriet know when you’ve written about Muriel Spark this week.  I don’t have Google Reader or anything, so although I’ll be keeping an eye out, I won’t have any way of having a complete list otherwise.

We’ll put together links to everything you’ve been saying, at the end of the week – and fingers crossed we’ll be able to put a link to every single one of the books below.  Whether this is your first experience with Spark, or whether you’re rather more qualified than me to express your love of Dame Muriel, I hope you have a great time – and can’t wait to hear more from you!

The Comforters (1957)
Robinson (1958)
Memento Mori (1959)
The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960)
The Bachelors (1960)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)
The Girls of Slender Means (1963)
The Mandelbaum Gate (1965)
The Public Image (1968)
The Driver’s Seat (1970)
Not to Disturb (1971)
The Hothouse by the East River (1973)
The Abbess of Crewe (1974)
The Takeover (1976)
Territorial Rights (1979)
Loitering with Intent (1981)
The Only Problem (1984)
A Far Cry From Kensington (1988)
Symposium (1990)
Reality and Dreams (1996)
Aiding and Abetting (2000)
The Finishing School (2004)

41 thoughts on “Muriel Spark Reading Week… is here!

  • April 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm
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    I think I discovered Muriel Spark thanks to the "Lost" Man Booker Prize of 2010. The Driver's Seat was on the shortlist–and it sounded fascinating. I read it immediately. So The Driver's Seat was first. I loved it, and have read 11 more of her books by now, plus Martin Stannard's biography. Needless to say, she's one of my favorite writers.

    I finished The Comforters yesterday. Surprisingly, since it's her first novel, it has to be one of the best I've read! It would be almost sickening if I didn't love her work so much. ;)

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    • August 24, 2014 at 12:11 am
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      I still think The Comforters is the best too.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 1:39 am
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    I read "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" in school. I remember enjoying it, but not really searching out anything further by the author. I really haven't thought about it until finding the posts about Ms. Sparks. I just posted on my readings for the the week. I am reading her autobiography while rereading "The Prime…" I look forward to visiting her other works as well. Bonnie

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  • April 23, 2012 at 7:29 am
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    Confession: I have still not read 'The Prime..' – relying on Maggie Smith… Oh dear!
    So far this 'read' I have managed 'The Abbesse of Crewe' (weird, or what? Without Google I would not have picked up on the underlying thread), 'Symposium' which I loved, & 'Reality and Dreams' which, for some reason. I kept think of being set in US and then received a jolt with every reference to London!
    I am currently reading two at once (because I left one in a bag somewhere and need to retrieve it!)'Loitering with Intent' which is promisingly Sparkian, and 'The Finishing School' (the one I have left in a bag) which is in large print format so makes wonderful midnight reading. Which leads me to a 'muse' – how much is one's appreciation of Spark (or any other author come to that) dependant upon the time and place one reads their work? Somehow, middle of the night, slumped on a pillow really seems to suit 'The Finishing School'!

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  • April 23, 2012 at 7:31 am
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    (that should have been 'kept thinking' – sorry, Sherpa leapt on my lap!

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  • April 23, 2012 at 8:01 am
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    I first read her biographies of Emily Bronte & Mary Shelley over 20 years ago & I've reviewed the Bronte book here,

    http://tinyurl.com/8a5fby8

    I've only read a few of her novels, Prime, Slender Means, Symposium & Far Cry but nothing recently. Maybe the reviews this week will inspire me to read more.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 8:26 am
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    I read The Ballad of Peckham Rye when I was at school (but not for school, if you see what I mean), attracted by the title and the cover – a photograph of a man wearing a smiling devil's mask, complete wit horns, as he peers over the shoulder of a marble angel. It was, I think, one of the first contemporary novels I encountered (until then most of my reading was classics based)and, more than that, it was written by a woman. I loved the spare quality of the writing, the wry humour, the subversive feel of the book, and the fact that there were no heroes and heroines in the conventional sense, just ordinary men and women going about their everyday lives and facing the trail of destruction left by Dougal Douglas, who was born with horns on his head…

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  • April 23, 2012 at 11:03 am
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    I'm new to Muriel Spark, having only read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I was very impressed with that book. I run book clubs from my place of employ – a library, and out of the 35 or so members that read the book a portion were bored and mystified by the book, but the others were either impressed or at least interested in reading further Spark penned books. I wrote a review over at my blog and if you feel like a read please use the below link:

    http://excelsiorforever.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/prime-of-miss-jean-brodie-muriel-spark.html

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  • April 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm
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    My introduction to Spark's writing was 'Christmas Fugue' in a collection of Christmas short stories. I found it a bit weird to be honest! Then this reading week came up and it was time to jump in despite my indifference, I'm so glad that I did. A Far Cry From Kensington is a wonderful read with just the sort of humour that appeals to me so thank you, Simon and Harriet!

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  • April 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm
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    I read Muriel Spark now for the first time, because I won an e-book of The Hothouse by the East River and enjoyed it a lot. Today, in honour of this week, I posted my thought on the book here: http://carpediemblogger.wordpress.com/
    I am certainly going to read some more of her books.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm
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    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was my intro to Spark – a particularly appropriate starting point since I read it soon after I started at an all-girls school. Since then, I've read A Far Cry From Kensington, The Girls of Slender Means, The Finishing School, Symposium and now (for the reading week) Loitering with Intent (I'm about to dive into her autobiography). I've never really clicked with her though. I like her books but I don't love them and my reaction seems to vary widely from book to book. The only one that has really stuck with me is The Finishing School, which so many Spark fans seem to dislike. I'm really looking forward to this week and to seeing what everyone reviews!

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  • April 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm
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    I first came across Muriel Spark in around 1977. It was recommended to me by my then English teacher Mrs McFarlane (her husband was the Head of French and they were nicknamed Ma and Pa Biscuit!). I thought she was about 140 and mad to recommend such drivel to me – but she made me persevere and I was glad she did. At that time I was torn between continuing to love books or giving them up in favour of the more archetypal Scottish working-class teenage boy obsessions in the early 70's of football, music and platform shoes! I guess reading didn't fit as part of the image for boys then (I think it might still be a problem). Fortunately I loved The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and because of this and a few other books (all pushed by Ma Biscuit!), I decided that a love of books, football and music weren't as mutually exclusive as many of my mates at that time thought they were!

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  • April 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm
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    I read and loved The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means. I was not that lucky with the choice for this week but it may have been the wrong moment. I'll post tomorrow.
    I'm still glad I'm participating and looking forward to the reviews.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm
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    I've read a few Sparks – six novels and a books of Short Stories. She's a wonderful writer, I think. I read her second novel for this reading week and the book of short stories The Go-Away Bird.
    The post on Robinson is here and I hope to have a post on The Go-Away Bird up by weeks end.

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  • April 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm
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    Read my first Muriel Spark today …. Short Story 'The Executor'… Really enjoyed it. Now on to one of her novels. There are more short stories in the collection to go … so should be a good week … Thanks Simon.

    Richard G

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  • April 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm
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    I think I read 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' first which came in a compendium so I was vaguely aware that there were more out there. After that it was the Virago reissues that got my attention and it was 'A Far Cry From Kensington' which really made me love Spark.

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  • April 24, 2012 at 1:11 am
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    I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie years and years ago and then reread it and read The Driver's Seat in 2006. I've just finished The Girls of Slender Means and am reminded all over again by how wonderful she is and am ready to pick up another book by her. I've actually (for once) read the book and written my post *during* the readalong and it'll go up tomorrow. Thanks for the gentle push to read her again!

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  • April 24, 2012 at 8:23 am
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    I came to Muriel Spark in my teens when I read Brodie after having seen the film. I've meant to explore further for years and years and years but just never got round to it, so I've used your reading week as an excuse to read Memento Mori, which I've had on my TBR list for, oooh, at least 20 years! I picked up a lovely copy a couple of weeks ago in a local charity bookshop just like the one on A Penguin A Week so it seemed like an omen.

    I finished Memento Mori last night and I'm still thinking about it and trying to make up my mind about it. It's a remarkably clever book and I enjoyed reading it very much – but I'm not sure if I actually *like* it. Her portrayal of the indignities and day to day awfulness of being old is really sharp and I did like her characters and their foibles which are really well portrayed. There is a lot of sadness in the book as people reach the end of their days and I particularly didn't like Dame Lettie's end – that ewas the one part of the book that didn't gel for me. But today I find I'm still thinking about the characters, chuckling about the funny bits and enjoying Spark's plot twists and turns so I feel I will find that the book grows on me as I think about it more.

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  • April 24, 2012 at 8:54 am
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    And actually, the more I think about this book, the more I'm getting out of it. I love the 'resolution' of where the phone messages are coming from – as if to remind the characters that the petty minor squabbles they still carry on are actually pointless in the greater scheme of life as we will all die eventually.

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  • April 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm
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    Saw The Girls of Slender Means on BBC TV (1975) and then read the book. Still my favourite Spark (though The Ballad of Peckham Rye runs it close).

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  • April 25, 2012 at 7:45 am
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    I still have a lot to explore as a reader of Muriel Spark. Fellow-Belgian writer Johanna Spaey praised Memento mori very highly in an essay, that got me started. My favourite novel up till now is The Driver's Seat; I also loved The Ghost Stories. It's odd, when I like a writer's work, I generally like almost all of it, but with Muriel Spark, some novels of her don't really register. She fascinates me: there's the lightness of touch, the cruelty, the odd detached way of looking at people.

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  • April 25, 2012 at 10:35 am
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    I only discovered Muriel Spark this year (I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in January), and will be exploring two of her novels in the upcoming week. I'm saving some of her other ones for years to come. I don't want to exhaust her bibliography yet!

    I'd love to be entered for the giveaway of The Hothouse by the East River.

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  • April 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm
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    Today I published a post about this event, including a review of Loitering with Intent. Read more here.

    Thanks for hosting, I'm learning a lot about Muriel Spark from everyone.

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  • April 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm
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    Purely in the spirit of spreading the word and not of shameless self-promotion, here's a link to my review of Curriculum Vitae, which confirms what we all suspected, that she's as good a writer when she's not making things up as when she is:

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  • April 27, 2012 at 9:38 am
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    I'd never heard of Sparks until I saw your week dedicated to her. Just received my copy of The Driver's seat, hopefully I'll read it quickly so that I see for myself her genius!!

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  • April 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm
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    I've just read Far Cry From Kensington, my first Muriel Spark (although I have The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in my TBR mountain). Still thinking about it: not what I expected. I think I'll go search out what others have said about the book — perhaps that will help clarify my own thoughts.

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  • April 28, 2014 at 8:03 pm
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    Hi! I´m a Spanish student and I´m studying an English degree. I had just finish of reading "The Bachelors" by Muriel Spark, and I think I didn't understand the end at all, could anyone help me please? I´m very intrigued!!

    Reply

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