Skip to main content

Review: Memento Mori, by Muriel Spark


Pages: 224
Original date of publication: 1959
My edition: 2000 (New Directions Classic)
Why I decided to read: pre-reading for Muriel Spark Reading Week, April 23-29
How I acquired my copy: Joseph Fox bookshop, Philadelphia, February 2012


In Mememto Mori, a group of senior citizens unite after a mysterious person keeps calling to say, “remember you must die.” The phone calls are secondary to the plot, but they serve as a catalyst to the rest of the story, which involves love affairs, blackmail, and death for some.

In a novel where “young” is someone in their 50s, everyone is obsessed with life, death, age, aging, and everything that comes with those things. At the ages that these characters are, they can’t help BUT remember that they will, at some point, die. There’s a neat technique to this novel in which, although the bulk of the story takes place in 1950s London, there are shifts back to things that happened in the 1920s and the turn of the century, so it’s interesting to see how this group of people has aged—some better than others. These were people whose adulthood covered most of the early 20th century, so it’s interesting to watch things change through their eyes.

It’s hard to believe that Muriel Spark was only middle-aged when she wrote this novel, because she writes about her characters so well! I love that Muriel Spark was such a versatile writer—she can go from writing about young women in their 20s living in a boarding house in The Girls of Slender Means to writing about the elderly in Memento Mori. It’s such a macabre book, but there are some truly funny moments in it. As a reader in her 20s, I enjoyed this novel much more than I thought I would!

Comments

StuckInABook said…
Thanks for your early review for Muriel Spark Reading Week! I agree with you - to write about old age this well, when she was young, is quite a stunning achievement.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

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

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…