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on 28 April 2017
came promptly
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on 13 April 2017
Excellent service quality
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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 the height of literary and dramatic fashion. Though there's plenty of Spark's acid wit, and souffle light writing style to enjoy, as others have said the novelist as a character in someone else's novel device gets a bit laboured, and disappears altogether at times. Though some of the (mostly female) characters are drawn as interesting people doing fantastical things, others don't work for me, especially the Satanic part of the plot, which I just found dull.
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Strange little book with a totally silly plot: Caroline, a recent convert to Catholicism, has started hearing voices and a 'ghost typewriter'.
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!
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on 27 March 2017
The best British women-writer; the novel, interesting and well-written, is as good as her other works. It's interesting that unlike other authors Spark had no ups and downs, all of her novels have a similar quality level, none of them falls behind.
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on 31 July 2017
A books about writing a book about a book. Funny, weird and completely delightful.
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I have been reading my way through all of Muriel Spark, finding that there is enormous variation between the ones I like and the ones that make me raise an eyebrow and go, "errr...?"

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.
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on 18 July 2014
I was in the mood for some Spark's writing and knew that I'd probably like this book. While I wasn't immediately drawn in, the story grow on me the more I read and I ended up enjoying the book more than I thought I would!

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.
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on 27 August 2014
An interesting plot but this book was overall very disappointing.the characters were at best stereotypes not fully developed, I had to keep looking back to clarify who was who, some characters didn't have a clear role in the story, The writing style was awkward and repatitve
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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 really, he can't quite believe it. Then Caroline, who is engaged to Lawrence, begins to hear someone speaking in her head. She is trying to write a book on `The Novel' but it isn't going too well. Might she be going mad? This is an amusing book to read, very light and quite preposterous. Because Muriel Spark posits an `other' author writing a book about these characters (there are a large quantity of characters - none more important than the central pair of Lawrence and Caroline, and perhaps Lawrence's mother, Louisa) one is supposed to think - how modernist, how charming and witty, but really it is only a little annoying.

It is a way of distancing oneself from what one is writing, for one thing, for another it's like an actor drawing attention to the falsity of the fourth wall, it immediately calls up the figure sitting writing all this down. It's as if our actor has suddenly moved out of character and declined to take part in the illusion of the plot. It must have seemed to many readers of the time to be rather clever. It shifts the action solely into the realm of invention - none of this is real, it announces. Then stubbornly goes on pretending that it is.

It's quite light, quite amusing, fun, often ephemeral, it's a breeze.
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