I can hardly believe it myself but this is the first thing by the Scottish author Muriel Spark which I’ve ever read. I suppose at just over 90 pages it should be called a novella, it’s certainly a very quick read as well as an enjoyable one so I’ll definitely be working my way through the rest of Spark’s books.
It’s set in London in 1945 between VE Day in May and VJ Day in August and the war in Europe has just come to an end but of course the war in the Far East is still ongoing. Muriel Spark seems to have captured the atmosphere of the time with everyone being obsessed with ration books and not even being able to get any soap. All of the girls borrow a Schiaparelli evening dress which one of them inherited from a wealthy aunt, except Jane who can’t fit into it.
London is a mess with bomb sites everywhere and the May of Teck Club which stood opposite the Albert Memorial has avoided a direct hit but three times all the windows had been shattered when bombs fell nearby.
The May of Teck Club exists for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their Families in order to follow an Occupation in London.
There are over 40 women living at the club which is just a genteel hostel with the youngest ones living in dormitories and the older ones having bedrooms, but love, money and marriage are the main things on their minds. They’ve survived when so many of their men friends didn’t.
Joanne, a vicar’s daughter, gives elocution lessons to young pupils within the premises so the book is scattered with the poetry which they have to recite. But there’s also Selina who is not quite right in the head and is under the impression that she’s in a relationship with the famous Jack Buchanan.
There’s lots going on and at one point I found that I had to get a tape measure to measure my hips! Anyway, this was one from my 2011 Reading List, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know what to read by Spark next though because I don’t think that there’s much point in reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie because I’ve seen so many films and dramatizations of it.