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The Driver's Seat (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 27 Apr 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (27 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141188340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141188348
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 62,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Her spiny and treacherous masterpiece' --New Yorker

'An extraordinary tour de force, a crime story turned inside out' --David Lodge --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Muriel Spark (born February 1, 1918) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. She began writing seriously after the war, beginning with poetry and literary criticism. In 1947, she became editor of the Poetry Review. Her first novel The Comforters was published in 1957, but it was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1962) which established her reputation. After living in New York for some years, she settled in Italy in the late 1960s. She became Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993.

John Lanchester was born in Hamburg in 1962. His first novel, THE DEBT TO PLEASURE, published by Picador in 1996, won the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Betty Trask Prize and the Hawthornden Prize. His second novel, MR PHILLIPS (Faber), was published in 2000 and was hailed as a "postmodern Ulysses". FRAGRANT HARBOUR, his third novel, was published by Faber in 2002. His work has been translated into 21 languages.

John Lanchester has recently delivered a memoir, FAMILY ROMANCE, which will be published by Faber in the spring of 2007.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D Burin on 25 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though known better for her subtly subversive, insightful and often tragic novels, such as 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' and 'The Girl's of Slender Means', Muriel Spark's 'The Driver's Seat' is perhaps her most innovative, and definitely her most provoking novel. The short, staccato novel tells the tale of Lise, an office worker, stifled by her mundane and uniform existence, who goes abroad in an attempt to find 'the one' in the form of a man. Spark's cruel, and quickly apparent twist, appears to be that 'the one' will be a man whom she wants to invoke some form of sexual crime or severe sexual deviancy upon her, whilst she is forced to subjugate to him, and this realisation gives the novel a sense of horror from the very early stages. Set around a vapid, soulless expanse of shopping malls, traffic jams and faceless hotels, Spark's novel gives a very powerful evocation of the sense of an absence of humanity and connectedness in the mid-late 20th century of her writing.

In Lise, Spark has a heroine who is a sort of diametric opposite of characters such as Jean Brodie. Terse, antagonistic and clearly in the throes of mental dissipation; the outlandishly dressed Lise forces the novel to unravel in a purposefully hectic style, as Lise appears to become more convinced of her plans, and equally further away from her sanity. Hugely troubling and genuinely startling, even for the contemporary reader; the only thing the novel falls down on is Spark's purposeful but sometimes maddeningly repetitive implications of what is wrong with this modern world in which Lise exists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 100 REVIEWER on 19 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
SPOILERS

I read my only Muriel Spark book a few years ago, "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and while I enjoyed it, it didn't make me want to read more Spark. Then before reading this I read Nick Hornby's latest collection of "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from The Believer magazine where he highly recommends Spark's "The Driver's Seat" and it was his one-line summation of the book that made me excited to read it - which I did in a sitting. It may be considered a spoiler but I think if more people knew what this book was about, they'd seek it out because it's such a strange and creepy novel. Here it is: an office worker called Lise loses her mind and goes on holiday abroad to be murdered. WHAT?!?!

I can honestly say I've never read a book where that was the main story. I mean, just imagine the state of mind someone must be in where they set up their own death, will it into existence and choose such a horrific way to die. Why? is the question that drives the reader's motivation through this book but it's not a book that willingly gives you answers. You have to try and understand a deeply troubled person through their erratic actions and try to come up with a solution yourself.

The tone of the book is immediately unnerving with Lise arguing with a shop assistant in a clothes store about a stainless fabric to her holiday dress; she doesn't want to hide the stains! Then you see her spotless flat and her mundane work life - 16 years in an accountant's office - and you begin to see why she desperately wants to be messy, both physically and spiritually.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ventos on 3 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
A woman goes on holiday on her own, to Naples, wearing ‘outlandish’ clothes – well, outlandish for the late '60s which, from the evidence of novels like this, were far more conservative than we tend to remember. She gets hassled constantly by blokes and then one of them kills her. That’s the plot of this very short novel. It sounds simply like a nasty exemplar of the usual patriarchal admonition: don’t step out of line, woman, or this’ll happen to you. What makes it extra nasty is that Lise apparently ‘wants’ to be murdered and deliberately seeks out the man who’ll do it to her. Obviously, she’s ‘mad’, but that makes it impossible to access any meaningful psychology about her. The narrative voice tells us what is going to happen, in order to create some tension in what otherwise is a diaristic tourist narrative. Overall, it manages to be both flimsy and unpalatable. On the plus side, there are some quite interesting insights into how different air travel used to be. And it doesn't last long.
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Format: Paperback
Muriel Spark was once commonly mentioned in the same breath as Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, this is due in part to her being Romantic Catholic, but mainly due to her precocious talent. Despite this, before The Driver's Seat was book of the month at my book group, the only other book of hers that I had read was The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie. I also saw Scottish actress, Ashley Jensen, appear in a play of the same title in the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, many years ago, long before she was famous!

Muriel Spark was born, Muriel Sarah Camberg, in Edinburgh, on February 1, 1918. She was educated in Edinburgh, where she attended the James Gillespie's High School for Girls. There she met educator Christina Kay who became the inspiration for one of Spark's most famous characters, Jean Brodie. Although Spark is well known for her novels, she started writing through poetry and became editor of Poetry Review, and later published a series of biographies on figures like William Wordsworth, Mary Shelley and Emily Brontë. She is best known for her novels, notably Memento Mori, The Ballad of Peckham Rye and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In 1993, Spark received a special honor from Queen Elizabeth II. She named a Dame of the British Empire. Four years later, Spark won David Cohen Literature Prize for her life's work. In 2004, Spark published The Finishing School, which proved to be her final novel. She died on April 13, 2006, in Florence, Italy.

The Driver's Seat is a novella by Muriel Spark. Published in 1970, it was advertised as "a metaphysical shocker". However, members of the book group were pleased that it was not a long book and was by a respected writer they had heard of.
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