Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Which I finally found a Muriel Spark Novel I Adore

“It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die. It is best to form the habit while young.”
Muriel Spark, Memento Mori

For the longest time I've really wanted to like Muriel Spark.  All the bookish folks I admire -- and many of them are my book twins as in we seem have the same bookish interests -- love Spark.  She's witty and dry and quirky and keeps her novels slim and sassy.  I've tried several of her novels:  Finishing School (blah), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (okay), Aiding and Abetting (likable, but not one I'd pick up again), Girls of Slender Means (meh)....  If I were to re-read one of the above titles I might feel differently; I've learned that time and place has a great deal to do with my reading.  It may very well be a case of right book and wrong time.

I picked up Memento Mori for Muriel Spark Reading Week -- which ended two weeks ago -- and I am happy to say I've found a five-star Spark novel.  I picked this book completely based on the cover and it was a definite win.  The plot involves a group of elderly friends (more like frenemies) who find someone calling them saying "Remember you must die."  Each of the friends respond differently to this mystery caller. Some die, some move into nursing homes, previous affairs resurface, and secrets past and present emerge.

Spark's Memento Mori reminded me a bit of a slimmed down Iris Murdoch novel. I always rave that my favorite part of Murdoch's novel involve her character descriptions; there is such a physicality in the descriptions.  More than height, eye color, a token feature or two, Spark -- like Murdoch -- allows us to view the character several different ways.  The aging Godfrey Colston in Memento Mori sees himself as spry, fit, and healthy.  Olive -- the granddaughter of a fellow in Colston's set -- sees him as a sad, angry, old man with bladder issues. I -- personally -- thought he sounded like a mean, blundering jerk. 

Based on how much I enjoyed Memento Mori, I have to say that I'm not giving up on Spark yet.  I am certainly going to read some other titles and perhaps re-read one of the books I didn't like the first time.  I'm really glad there was a Muriel Spark reading week or I might not have picked up Memento Mori. 

1 comment:

bibliolathas said...

This one really hit the spot for me too - the tone was amazing. This is my favourite Spark, definitely, of the couple I've read.