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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and innovative; but not a pleasant read
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...
Published on 25 Nov 2010 by Mr. D Burin

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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor, contrived, rubbish
I am a big fan of Muriel Spark's writing, so I read this book with high hopes.
What I got was a contrived, unbelievable main character saddled with awful dialogue and seemingly arbitrary motivations.
It was more akin to something you'd encounter in a creative writing class. The characters Lise encounters are all entirely wooden and unmemorable. She herself seems...
Published on 8 Mar 2011 by Md Lachlan


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and innovative; but not a pleasant read, 25 Nov 2010
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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. Equally, though the technique of making the reader feel a sense of alienation by making Lise so other, and not giving her the qualities with which one would traditionally empathise, makes the novel especially hard to connect with, as superbly written as most of it is. For those looking for a gripping and challenging look at the human condition on the brink of itself, this is a superb work; but one that most readers aren't going to find themselves altogether enjoying the experience of.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Anti-Fairy Tale, 19 Aug 2012
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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.

From there, every encounter with a character is tinged with an aura of desperation, sadness and despair as the reader finds out Lise's fate and wonders if each character she meets - and she meets a series of odd men - is the one who kills her. The mounting unease of the novel is matched by Lise's increasingly bizarre behaviour as she wanders about the foreign city in a daze speaking in four different languages.

This novel is as unsettling as Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" which has all the elements of an ordinary life until the horrific finale which completely forces you to re-examine everything that went before it. There are so many great artists which I felt this book had elements of - Hitchcock, Kafka, Shirley Jackson, Daphne Du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith. "The Driver's Seat" could be classified as horror because it's such a weird, unpleasant yet compulsively readable book that I couldn't put down - I had to know who kills her in the end and why. And having read the novel now I only have more questions rather than answers.

Most people, myself included, tend to read a writer's best known book and move on to the next great writer and their best work, and so on. I did this with Spark and "Jean Brodie" but this writer has far more to offer than a girl's grammar school, complex relationships and secrets - "The Driver's Seat" proves that Spark is a formidable talent whose nightmarish novel is a must-read for people looking for a thrilling book that still has the power to shock more than 40 years since it was published. I was disturbed by this book and I can't remember the last book that genuinely made me feel this way. "The Driver's Seat" shows a fearless writer journeying deep into the darkness of the human psyche and showing the rest of us the mysterious horror that lurks beneath. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended and underrated book, 16 July 2014
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Before reading The Driver's Seat I had only ever read one other Muriel Spark work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and I hadn't particularly enjoyed it. The Driver's Seat inspired a much more positive reaction. I've since read a lot of Spark's books and I'm really glad The Driver's Seat got me started on them.

It's humorous, dark, and for being so short and using such deceptively simple language there was so much to think about: identity, rape-myths, mental health, how much control you have over your actions...(I could go on), along with a good dash of metafiction. As soon as I had finished it I flicked straight back to the start and began reading it again. I read a lot, however this still one of my favourite books.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grueling Drive through the Labyrinth, 13 April 2009
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Amazingly concise yet fluid writing. Probably one of Spark's finest works yet somehow overlooked. If you want to know how to write a crisp, well-plotted novella this is one of the best examples out there. The plot twists make the story - I must admit I thought I saw one coming but there is no audience cheat here. The suspense just keeps on building. I won't give away plot points. No spoilers here. Just read it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Driven To Disaster (The Main Character, Not The Book), 7 Feb 2010
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
As the minimal 109 page novel `The Driver's Seat' by Muriel Spark opened I knew that with the main character Lise I, as the reader, was in for quite an unusual treat, mind you Muriel Spark always manages to create something quite special with any book she writes. As we meet her Lise is having a bad moment in a changing room whilst shopping for a dress for her impending holiday. The bad moment in question seems to be tearing of a dress in an offended rage after being told `the material doesn't stain' leads her to feel the saleswoman is being insulting by insinuating something or some things. As we spend more time with the ever contrary Lise you begin to realise that she is definitely not quite right mentally, yet when we look at her perfect uber-tidy and neat flat and her regular sixteen year job we begin to question ourselves.

In fact it seems that the holiday the dress is for is actually some form of much needed escape for Lise and so she in a way firmly grips the drivers seat of her life and promptly goes completely off the rails into crazy unknown territory, starting at the airport before she has even boarded the plan, meeting a small quirky cast of characters along the way and heading towards a climatic life event for herself. I can't give away anymore than that without spoiling the plot. I will say that the opening paragraph of chapter three had me says `what, no, surely not'. No more shall I say on the subject of plots though.

I will say I think this has almost instantly become my favourite Spark yet. In comparison to some of the other works of hers I have read this has the darkest undertone despite its bright cover and flamboyant lead character. It also packs one of her hardest punches. It also sees Muriel dabble in a genre that I wouldn't have seen her try and yet she does brilliantly in her own Sparkish way. I realise I sound vague but I do so hate to spoil things and this is a book that should not be spoiled in any way at all and in fact if you haven't read must be read immediately.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, 8 Jun 2014
By 
P. J. Jorgensen "Vikinglad" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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The Preface is well written and gives nothing away as to the contents of the book. Amazing book, I had nightmares for two nights while erasing it ... I can't recall ever having a book have that effect on me.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF SCOTLAND'S BEST EVER..., 2 Oct 2009
Spark is, of course, best-known for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but this book was, apparently, one of the author's own favourites.
Disturbing, funny, and acutely observed, this short novel (perhaps even short enough to be called a novella) follows the movements of a woman who has gone over the edge.
Spark's own life and background is worth scanning, if even briefly, before reading this - there can be few authors whose powers of observation and telling detail are applied to portraits of characters who we'd probably prefer not to scrutinise too closely.
A truly original story, with a small cast of memorable characters and a lingering afterburn reminiscent of the best ever produced by Du Maurier.
Highly recommended.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Driver's Seat, 20 Sep 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Driver's Seat (Paperback)
This is a realy interesting book which makes you question what you expect from reading and why. All the obvious pattern are absent in this novella which left me feeling lost and confused throughout, however upon completion this seemed entirely suitable. The Driver's Seat follows Lise the main character as she holidays somewhere in the south and seems to create her own ultimate ending. She is in the driver's seat as she takes control of her life and also her end, or is she? Reading this was an entirely new experience in novel reading and one which has opened my eyes to new and different literary forms. I would recoment this novel, it is interesting, different and unusual.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor, contrived, rubbish, 8 Mar 2011
By 
I am a big fan of Muriel Spark's writing, so I read this book with high hopes.
What I got was a contrived, unbelievable main character saddled with awful dialogue and seemingly arbitrary motivations.
It was more akin to something you'd encounter in a creative writing class. The characters Lise encounters are all entirely wooden and unmemorable. She herself seems uninteresting and not a little irritating. OK, we don't have to have sympathetic main characters but there should be some level at which they at least excite our curiosity. I was praying for her to get bumped off somewhere around the airport.
Also, it was as if no one in the airport had ever encountered a traveller before - asking her questions about where she was going and what she was travelling for. The student riot was entirely unconvincing too - a clumsy and badly observed set piece - the worst student riot I've read since Wodehouse tried it with Aunts Aren't Gentlemen.
I honestly thought this was a shocker, which surprised me as I've really enjoyed her writing in the past.
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11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind Blowing, 4 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Driver's Seat (Paperback)
Lise is bored of her mundane life and decides to go on holiday but in search of what? Ths piece follows the story line of a classic murder story with a seriously twisted end. An extremely intelligent and mind blowing text from Muriel Spark.
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The Driver's Seat (New Directions Paperbook)
The Driver's Seat (New Directions Paperbook) by Muriel Spark (Paperback - 27 Aug 2014)
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