The Comforters (VMC) Paperback – 6 Aug 2009
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Brilliantly original and fascinating (Evelyn Waugh)
A master of malice and mayhem (Michiko Katutani, NEW YORK TIMES)
Muriel Spark's stunning debut novelSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This is one of the latter, a very strange book, which is reminiscent to me of one of the darkest Ealing comedies. A granny who smuggle diamonds in bread (yes, I did keep thinking of Alec Guiness in drag), an assortment of odd people, and most of all the weird Caroline Rose who keeps hearing voices which indicate she knows the novel is being written about her.
At this point, we are suddenly into fiercely post-modern, self-aware, Italo Calvino territory. You may really enjoy it, I found it off-puttingly strange. And I do enjoy a lot of post-modern fiction, but this is such a weird mix of that and a rather English comic novel. Anyway, she was clearly defiantly trying to do something new, from her very first publication, and that I really admire. Even when you are not enjoying her books, there is that strength and intelligence in them which you cannot help but revere.
It was a slightly absurd, enjoyable read with a dash of metafiction. As Spark did in her story 'The Driver's Seat' (which I'd highly recommend if you haven't read any of her work before), traditionally heavy topics - here of Catholicism and mental illness - are handled with a light, humorous touch. While the plot was surreal, the characterisations and social interactions often made me smile to myself as I recognised the people and situations in my own life. A touch of mystery, romance and mystical elements made for an enjoyable read.
Meanwhile her (Job's) comforters have their own preoccupations: boyfriend Laurence is investigating his grandmother who is part of a diamond smuggling gang. (Grandmother Louisa is undoubtedly the best drawn character in the book- half gipsy with her Bulgarian cigarettes and taste for cooking offal.)
His mother is only interested in Catholic charity work, even towards the objectionable Mrs Hogg whom Caroline so dislikes. And her friend the Baron is obsessed with black magic...
Spark's poetic writing shines through: I loved such phrases as 'Louisa sat beside the wireless cuddled in the entranced carcass of Laurence's voice'.
And I found Ali Smith's introduction most enlightening to read when I'd finished the book. But I was glad to get to the end!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Muriel Spark's first novel, published at the time of the kitchen sink realism of the Angry Young Men, and seems from my perspective 50 years on as a studied satire of what was then... Read morePublished on 28 Feb. 2014 by Richard Newbold
This is all a bit mad - and meant to be, of course. Lawrence is worried about his mother who seems to be involved in a kind of smuggling gang, though nothing is very clear, and... Read morePublished on 16 July 2012 by Eileen Shaw