The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark

If you are looking for a short novel to read, The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark is one of the best novels I have read in a decade. Within five pages you start admiring Spark’s writing, and as you get deeper into the novel you increasingly realize how amazing she is. She captures intense settings and actions with a few crafty sentences. Everything is in your mind.

Virgilia Patterson in The New York Times wrote, in 1963 when the book appeared: “Admirers of Miss Spark’s last and brilliant little tale, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” may find “The Girls of Slender Means” more oblique and ambiguous. The abrupt shifts in time are less easy to follow, and the verses she quotes with such poignant effect may not seem relevant to those who do not remember the context of the poems she quotes from (as, for instance, “Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” in which one nun goes to her death unafraid). Furthermore, the book’s end may appear arbitrarily drastic to those who do not have a religious view of fate. But those who seek new dimensions in their reading will find this to be Miss Spark’s most interesting piece of work. “

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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