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Symposium (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – 7 Sep 2006
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This is the story of a dinner party, a knot of people with pasts and connections which at first seem few but are later found to be many ... The prevailing mood is urbane: the wine is poured, the talk continues, and all the time the ice on which the protagonist s' world rests is being thinned from beneath by boiling emotions and ugly motives ... No living writer handles the tension between formality of expression and the subversiveness of thought more elegantly (Candia McWilliam, Independent on Sunday)
Stiletto-sharp fiction...as in the bitter confections of Ivy Compton-Burnett, it is the dialogue that propels this dangerous, devilish book (Alan Taylor, Scotland on Sunday)
Extremely clever and highly entertaining ... A young bride is seen to have been connected, apparently by chance, with a sequence of untimely deaths ... Symposium is put together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle (Penelope Lively)
The greatest Scottish novelist of modern times . . . She was peerless, sparkling, inventive and intelligent - the crème de la crème (Ian Rankin)
Seemingly banal dinner-party chat reveals strange tales of the guests' dodgy pasts and unreliable futures. Symposium is Muriel Spark at her wicked best.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
In some ways this story can be quite dark as we read of murders, politically leftist nuns, madness and burglaries, but there is a sense of humour here, both lighter as well as quite black. With some questioning the meeting of two people who then got married, we also have a couple who both fancy the same man.
This is experimental in many ways as we jump from topic to topic, although the various strings do all come together. We also have a lot of flashbacks, and in a couple of cases are told of things before they happen. This thus does give this book a different feeling from a lot of stories but it is not hard to read, indeed it is exceptionally easy and short, which can be deceptive as really the tale is quite heavy at times.
I would have to say this is not my favourite book by this author, but it is still well worth reading.
I just wanted to write a note on this one, though, to say that although the introduction by Ian Rankin is very interesting (and he did 3 years of a PhD on Spark's novels, so it's lovely to read what he has to say on the subject) it is not at all an introduction to this actual book. In fact, 'Symposium' isn't even mentioned by name in the 'introduction', which I think is actually a general speech Rankin made in her honour at some point which Virago have co-opted into use as an intro. I think this is rather bad work by the publishers, as I could have bought the book much cheaper second-hand, and would have done, except that it was presented as having this intro by Rankin which interested me....
That issue set aside (for which I am deducting that star!), this is another wonderful Muriel Spark book. one of her later novels, from 1991: A dinner party, some horrible guests, and her usual wonderfully sneaky female characters....Let the trouble commence.
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