Arguably Scotland’s greatest post-war novelist, Muriel Spark came to novel writing comparatively late in life. Although she had previously penned a selection of literary biographies, her debut novel, The Comforters, did not appear until she was nearly 40. The Comforters, a postmodern work in which the female protagonist comes to realise that she is living in a novel, established many of the themes of Spark’s fiction; the vagaries of Catholicism, the nature of guilt and ironic play with literary forms.
In 1961 she was catapulted into the public eye with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, an exquisitely savage portrait of a narcissistic school mistress, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1968 for her jet-black critique of celebrity, The Public Image. Spark responded by writing a series of ‘anti-novels’; scalpel sharp novellas that eschewed commercialism in favour of narrative experimentation and ever darker subject matter. She returned to more accessible fare in the 1980s, with the semi-autobiographical Loitering With Intent and A Far Cry From Kensington, both based on her former career as a literary editor in London.
Revered by successive generations of Scottish novelists, she had written 22 novels by the time of her death in 2006, with the term ‘Sparkian’ being deployed to connote her oft-imitated – but seldom equalled – satirical bite and linguistic economy.
Since its publication in 1961 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie has become Muriel Spark’s signature novel. A devastating portrait of a narcissistic Edinburgh school mistress and the coterie of impressionable girls that she takes under her wing, it cloaks a deliciously scathing attack on the abuse of power in exquisitely crafted and economical prose. One of the great Scottish novels of the 20th century, it was remade as an Oscar winning film in 1969, with Maggie Smith in the title role.
Other Works by Muriel Spark
Would you like to proceed to the App store to download the Waterstones App?