Monday 6 March 2023

Book Review: Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark , narrated by Nadia May

Loitering with Intent

Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My in person book group mentioned that they had never read any Muriel Spark, not even The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie! So we, of course, had to rectify this. As a fellow Scot I recall she was on my secondary school reading list over 50 years ago (TPMJB and The Ballad of Peckham Rye) and the movie version with the marvelous Maggie Smith came out around then as well. I suppose the success of the movie may have been the reason why many people had not read the book. Over the years I have at least read The Abbess of Crewe, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver's Seat but none of her later ones . I also recall watching a documentary in praise of her by Ian Rankin, sadly I've not found this available in full online. But there is a BBC Interview with her available of Youtube ; another BBC celebration of her by Kirsty Wark and the National Library of Scotland has her Archives .

Loitering with intent was a fast and very enjoyable read. A retrospective first person narrative of a writer, Fleur Talbot recalls the time she spent of her first novel and her job with the mysterious Autobiographical Association and its founder and leader Sir Quentin Oliver in the period 1949-50. This is a self help group therapy club for upper class misfits led by a power maniac. When does live and literature become one? Fleur notices that her novel seems to be foretelling what is happening in real life. Then the only typescript of her novel is stolen.

The novel is high melodrama. It is also a farce worthy of Brian Rix, Alistair Sim and Alec Guinness. I loved the character of aging Lady Edwina, Sir Quentin's 'mummy', whose 'fluvative percipitations' disrupts everything, everywhere. If you read it will sound so outdated nowadays, but go with the flow and I do not think you will be disappointed. The writing will sweep you along. Not surprisingly it was shortlisted in for the Booker in 1981, along with Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers (one of my 5* for both movie and reads) the year Salman Rushdie won with Midnight's Children. The Audio verison is narrated by Nadia May. A thoroughly enjoyable read

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