Sunday, July 20, 2008

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.

3 comments:

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!

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