Skip to main content

Review: The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark

“Long ago in 1945 all the nice people were poor , allowing for exceptions.”

The “Girls of Slender Means” are single young working women, nearly all under the age of thirty, at the May of Teck Club in London. The club is more or less a boarding house or a dorm at a women's college, where women with limited incomes shares rooms while sunbathing on the roof and sharing a Schiaparelli gown. There are so many women in the house that you almost need a chart to keep track of who’s who and who does what job or dates which boy.

Its summer, 1945, at the very end of WWII. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Jane Wright, an assistant at a publishing house, whose life combines pragmatism with the idealism of the literary world. She becomes acquainted with semi-famous, anarchistic author Nicholas Farringdon, “on loan to the Americans,” who’s only interested in the May of Teck Club for one of its residents. The residents of the boarding house are still very much affected by the recent war; one of them, in tours of the building to prospective residents, shows them the place where a bomb nearly went off and another where, in her opinion, a bomb still was that never exploded.

The Girls of Slender Means is a lot like A Far Cry From Kensington in many respects: there’s the boarding house, the overweight publishing employee, the post-war atmosphere. Muriel Spark’s work tends to be a lot like that of Barbara Pym—there’s a certain sort of quiet gentility in both writers’ novels. I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it again: Spark is witty. It’s a charming story… except for the tragedy that occurs within.


Michelle said…
I keep trying to find this in my local library without success.
Bookfool said…
Oh, I need to read this one if it's anywhere near as fun as A Far Cry From Kensington (my favorite Spark book).
Teddy Rose said…
You just added another book to Mt. TBR!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: The Tudor Secret, by CW Gortner

Pages: 327Original date of publication:My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s)Why I decided to read: Heard about this through Amazon.comHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, December 2010Originally published as The Secret Lion, The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth.There ‘s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around—primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust a seemingly nobody with this …

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…