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Review: A Far Cry From Kensington, by Muriel Spark

Mrs. Nancy Hawkins, a war widow living in Italy, looks back on the time in the 1950s when she lived in a boarding house in South Kensington and worked as book editor at the financially floundering publishing company Ullswater and York. Her private and professional lives intersected when her neighbor Wanda, a Polish dressmaker, received a blackmail note and then a sinister phone call. When Mrs. Hawkins was fired from her job for calling author Hector Bartlett (who couldn’t write) a “pisseur de copie,” she got another job at a large firm known for hiring unusual people.

Mrs. Hawkins takes delight in freely dispensing advice, such as her no-fail rule for losing weight: always eat just half. Her mother-ish tone is very personal, very confiding. Most of the characters in this short, funny novel are weak, behaving in extremely foolish ways. Mrs. Hawkins is quick to point out these weaknesses in the people who surround her and to notice that those people are usually the most dangerous to deal with. What I love about this novel is that there’s so much hidden meaning, so much hidden with regards to human nature. The comedy in this book is subtle very English; but on the other hand, there’s a certain amount of tragedy here as well.

Also reviewed by: Reading Matters

Comments

Care said…
Hello! Just stopping by to say hello. I need to get to Spark - have yet to read anthing...
Dewey said…
Hmm, this one sounds good to me!
reading1001 said…
"pisseur de copie" - Mrs. Nancy Hawkins' got some fancy lingo for a Britisher in the 1950s...

I've never heard that expression before. Kinda gross.

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2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…