The brevity of Muriel Spark’s novels is equaled only by their brilliance. These four novels, each a miniature masterpiece, illustrate her development over four decades. Despite the seriousness of their themes, all four are fantastic comedies of manners, bristling with wit.
Spark’s most celebrated novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, tells the story of a charismatic schoolteacher’s catastrophic effect on her pupils. The Girls of Slender Means is a beautifully drawn portrait of young women living in a hostel in London in the giddy postwar days of 1945. The Driver’s Seat follows the final haunted hours of a woman descending into madness. And The Only Problem is a witty fable about suffering that brings the Book of Job to bear on contemporary terrorism.
All four novels give evidence of one of the most original and unmistakable voices in contemporary fiction. Characters are vividly etched in a few words; earth-shaking events are lightly touched on. Yet underneath the glittering surface there is an obsessive probing of metaphysical questions: the meaning of good and evil, the need for salvation, the search for significance.