An informed yet dry scholarly essay examining the significance of time in Muriel Spark’s fiction.
Author of 22 novels, award-winning Scottish writer Dame Muriel Spark is perhaps most famous for her work The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961). In this extended essay, Bruno focuses on this and four other novels—Memento Mori (1959), The Girls of Slender Means (1963), The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) and The Driver’s Seat (1970)—as a way of exploring Spark’s fragmented and cyclical approach to time in her fiction. Bruno begins by examining how Spark’s life is mirrored in her fiction, addressing the role of war, religion, thrift and economy, and she then goes on to critically investigate the books themselves. The theme of time is carefully intertwined with that of memory; the manner in which Spark disrupts chronology in her fiction is tackled with aplomb. Bruno also emphasizes Spark’s interest in natural cycles, such as the passing of the seasons, as well as her use of complex time shifts intended to imitate violent disruptions in life. The reluctance to examine Spark’s entire body of work makes for a rather stunted study, although the author succeeds in working methodically through each of the chosen novels, drawing out relevant strands and providing sharp textual analysis. An awkward turn of phrase can sometimes discredit Bruno’s argument, however: “A pattern also exists in the confusion of the modern world. It is for the individual to search for it.” The result is a style both tangled and stuffy. Throughout, the essay can sometimes come across as a reworked graduate dissertation, particularly with regard to its repetitious statements of intent. The dissertation style might not engage a nonacademic readership, although it will certainly appeal to Spark’s dedicated fan base.
With the tenor of a thoroughly researched student essay, this insightful book will appeal to fans eager to learn more about a talented author.