Skip to main content

Review: Territorial Rights, by Muriel Spark


Pages: 188
Original date of publication: 1979
My edition: 1979 (Granada)
Why I decided to read: Muriel Spark Reading Week
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, February 2012


Set at the time of publication (late 1970s), Territorial Rights was written during the period that Spark lived in Italy. The novel contains all the classic Muriel Spark elements: strange characters, murder, blackmail, and a slightly bizarre, highly-charged atmosphere. It’s a novel about the complications that can occur with deception—because everyone in this book has something to hide. But the characters are almost archetypes, serving as vehicles for the larger story. It’s just as comical as some of her other books, and I’m really enjoying this novel. In this case, there’s a possible kidnapping and a 30-year-old mystery dating back to WWII.

Robert comes to the Pensione Sofia in order to escape a disastrous relationship he left back in England—but almost as soon as he arrives, he runs into his father, a retired headmaster who’s on vacation with another woman. Back in England, Robert’s mother hires the services of a detective agency whose acronym is GESS (guess get it?). Also present is Robert’s art-collector friend Curran and Robert’s girlfriend Lina, a Bulgarian refugee with an untenable grasp on the English language (“I don’t have no spare cash”). All of these characters link back to a mystery that happened thirty years ago at the Pension Sofia.

As I’ve said, the characters are kind of archetypes: the Bulgarian refugee (although she is charming), the (supposedly) cheating husband, the (supposedly) betrayed wife, the mysterious Mr. B at GESS, etc. The characters seem to have a very loose link to each other, and the end of the story didn’t tie together very well—in fact, it all pretty much unravels as everyone leaves Italy, thereby returning to the “territorial rights” of home. That said, though I did enjoy this book; I liked how the mysteries of both past and present intertwined with one another. A Muriel Spark novel wouldn’t be complete wouldn’t be complete without a hint of the bizarre; in this case it’s not only the multiple mysteries but also the city of Venice, an enigma unto itself. Probably one of my favorite Muriel Spark novels, but my all-time favorite is still The Girls of Slender Means.

Comments

StuckInABook said…
Ah, a much more positive review than a couple others I've seen this week of Territorial Rights. I don't yet have a copy, but Hayley/Desperate Reader is sending me hers - hurrah!

Popular posts from this blog

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…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My 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…