"Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions."
Thus begins Muriel Spark's tragic and rapier-witted portrait of a London ladies' hostel just emerging from the shadow of World War II. Like the May of Teck Club building itself - "three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit" - its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal, practicing elocution and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown.
But the novel's harrowing ending reveals that the girls' giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragically painful war wounds.
©1963 Muriel Spark; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio
"Spark, as usual, has perfectly plotted and peopled this giddy world of postwar delirium and girls' dormitory life." (Library Journal)
Somehow, "The Girls of Slender Means" manages to be simultaneously: an often hilariously funny social satire (particularly of the publishing business); an amazingly realistic account of the deprivations of post-war England; and a deeply moving character study of the conflict between innocence and soulless evil. In some ways it's a "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" with twenty-somethings instead of younger girls, and it's a good bet that if you have read and enjoyed that book you'll like this one. Nadia May is as always a fine interpreter of Muriel Spark, with fine pacing and a deft hand at conveying Spark's dry irony.
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