Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Driver's Seat - Muriel Spark

First published 1970; pictured is the 1974 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition. The cover shows Elizabeth Taylor in the film of the same name.

This short, absorbing novel follows the final 24 hours of Lise, 34 years old and desperately unfulfilled. Travelling to an anonymous southern US city for a holiday, she is fixated on finding the perfect man. But not for adventure, romance or sex... Lise wants to die.

She travels in a plane, taxis and "borrowed" cars, visits hotels, goes shopping for imaginary relatives, befriends an elderly woman who is too confused to realise how disturbed Lise is, and fends off unwanted sexual advances until the "right" man comes along.

And come along he does, giving Lise the perfect chance to bring about her own death, just the way she wants it.

Muriel Spark (1918 - 2006) was born in Scotland. After working in intelligence during WWII, she began writing, becoming a poet, novelist, editor, critic and biographer. She joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1954, a move she felt was crucial in becoming a novelist. Spark had one child, a son, who was raised by his maternal grandparents and did not attend his mother's funeral in 2006. Spark was said to have found her son's childish sentiment "cloying", and she avoided him in later life.

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