- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: New Directions; Reprint edition (2 Aug. 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0811212963
- ISBN-13: 978-0811212960
- Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 1 x 17.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 590,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Abbess of Crewe: A Modern Morality Tale Paperback – 2 Aug 1995
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From the Back Cover
An elegant fable about intrigue, corruption, and electronic surveillance, 'The Abbess of Crewe' (1974) is set in an English Benedictine convent. Steely and silky Abbess Alexandra has bugged the convent, and rigged her election. But the cat gets out of the bag, and--plunged into scandal--the serene Abbess faces a Vatican inquiry.
About the Author
The writer of some of the best sentences in English (The New Yorker), Muriel Spark (1918 2006) was the author of dozens of novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, and The Driver s Seat. She became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.
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Top Customer Reviews
I had the presence of mind to answer 'Well so have I' but not the gall to say to him 'How about you?' Really she only has a 'bad' mind in the sense we all have bad minds -- there are thoughts we do not lightly own up to. What makes Spark so unique is that the thoughts are so diverse and fanciful. She is all over the place in the best sense, she is as light-footed as a Mendelssohn scherzo, and there is never a demeaning touch in all her writing. I never really know where I am with her. She deals with senility (Memento Mori), satanism (The Ballad of Peckham Rye), fascism (Brodie), epilepsy (The Bachelors) and sexual situations too various to list (passim) like the shallop flitting silken-sailed in The Lady of Shalott. They never become issues, they never become themes and there is often an overlay of the outright fantastic, as when Mrs Georgina Hogg in The Comforters, who has no private life, disappears when she closes her bedroom door behind her.
The Abbess gets 4 stars from me because it is one of her slighter efforts compared with the novels mentioned above and certain others. Anyone getting to know Spark's work could start as well with this as with those, or indeed as well with those as with this. If you can get her wavelength at all this book will not 'lose' you as The Hothouse by the East River might do. I have seen it described as 'a wicked satire on Watergate', a plonking, insensitive characterisation -- you do not pin Spark down like that.Read more ›
The Abbess Hildegarde is newly dead ... and the Abbey is waiting for the new Abbess to be elected. Alexandra, the Sub Prioress is determined to win ...
Meanwhile Sister felicity jumps from her window on to the haycart pulled up below and runs to meet her Jesuit from the nearby Monastery.
"They can't possibly know the sewing room is bugged".
These extracts should arouse enough curiosity to read the book.
It's a scream!
This is not a parody of 'real' religious communities, as I see it. It's definitely not an anti-religious book. It's a book very much about people: their parochial concerns; power corrupted, ego-driven, snobbish and high-handed.
One community is in schism: a popular young nun has gathered around her a clique under her banner of Free Love. So popular is she becoming that the recently open position of Abbess of the convent is feared to be within her grasp. So her main competitor (and her superior in several senses) decides to enlist the aid of electronic surveillance equipment - made in the Abbey's admired workshops - to listen in to all the nuns' conversations...
This book is as mildly surreal and somewhat Gothic as it sounds - there is a magical realism at play here years before that form became a cause celebre. But it is not so surreal as to be hallucinatory or ridiculous. Spark is very clever at keeping everything just within the bounds of feasibility, so that you just marvel at her originality and playfulness.
If you enjoyed Hilary Mantel's 'Fludd' you will definitely enjoy this book.
This is, in fact, Watergate with nuns as the subtitle suggests (A wicked satire on Watergate), with, on the tapes, `poetry deleted' in place of Nixon's `expletive deleted'. The media is much titillated when a nun is expelled after being accused of dallying with a Jesuit priest, and from there on this clever little farce unfolds. This artfully constructed novella is an exercise in spiteful charm from beginning to end. Four stars only, however, because as satire it only goes so far and Watergate is too large and complex a phenomenon to be addressed solely by artful flippancy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A brilliant book which stands the test of time because Spark's wit is timeless. The wit to snitch on someone for adding cat and dog food into the mix is hilariously funny. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Christine Arnold
I haven't finished it yet. It is written very much in pre-war style and is spooky. Nevertheless I'm enjoying it.Published on 11 Oct. 2014 by S. M. Pettit
this book is written like an exquisite piece of needlepoint. deceptively simple with a wicked slant on religiosity and gullibility.Published on 9 Sept. 2014 by bookworm
The novel is an allegory of the Watergate scandal which surrounded the president of the United States (Richard Nixon) in the early 1970s.Published on 3 July 2014 by Paul Halsall