Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

In the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat, John Lanchester writes that the book's "near-jaunty tone" is "at odds with its jet-black content." It's the first time I've encountered an introduction with instructions to read the book first. And so I did.

In the opening scene, Lise has a hysterical fit when a shop assistant tells her that the dress she has just tried on is stain-resistant. I was immediately hooked. The fascinating central character is mentally ill, and readers learn very early on that she will soon be dead in another country.

Another outburst demonstrates Spark's mastery of final twists, this time from a proprietor who mistakenly turns on Lise after his business is disrupted by rioting students:

"He advises her to go home to the brothel where she came from, he reminds her that her grandfather was ten times cuckolded, that she was conceived in some ditch and born in another; after adorning the main idea with further illustrations he finally tells her she is a student."

The book is deliciously disturbing and only about a 100 pages long.

Thank you to Simon at Savidge Reads for reminding me about Muriel Spark and for recommending this book in particular. I reviewed another of her brilliant works a few years ago: A Far Cry from Kensington.

Twisty dark readalikes: Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn); The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Gaetan Soucy); and the short stories in Crimespotting, An Edinburg Crime Collection.

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