Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Driver's Seat

I'm thrilled when I see challenges that will help me discover new writers and new genres of literature.  Simon at Stuck in a Box together with Harriet organised this week a retrospective on Muriel Spark, a novelist that I may had heard the name of, but certainly knew nothing about.  Quickly I ordered my copy of The Driver's Seat, to get me into the mood for adventure...  Little did I know that this book would open a whole new horizon - not only for Spark. I prepared myself by reading the reviews posted in the two hosts' blogs, trying to figure out what I was in for - what Spark's style was.  My book is in the 1970's, so I was prepared for an alternative subject.  Still, when I got my copy I knew that I was in for a treat - a wonderful new context was there for me to read and enjoy.
The storyline is quite dark, and I have to say, in line with what my idea of the 1970's would be: already from the first pages, I was inside a futuristic 1970's film, with the heroine, Lise, becoming a hysterical, almost paranoid, overworked (?) woman, who decides to flee.  Within the first 20 pages I knew the end, she would be killed.  Very unusual, but all the more intriguing:  by whom and most importantly, why?

Lise's apartment is really taken out from that decade, all pieces being multi-functional:  "... the furniture is all fixed, adaptable to various uses, and stackable".  I could well imagine how the bed would disappear, the kitchen as well, and how a tiny little apartment would be spacious for entertaining - I've actually watched documentaries on this...

Things go wrong when Lise talks in a baby voice - never a good indicator when it comes to women.  I knew then, even before I read she would be killed, that the book would not have a good ending.  The psychedelic-coloured clothes she's wearing also made me feel uneasy as to her sanity...

She's heading off to Italy, and in her short journey before her death manages to meet a whole array of people (funnily, this never happens to me when travelling):  an Enlightenment Leader (this is, after all, the 1970's), an elderly lady who clings on to Lise, and a series of unimportant men who, as Lise puts it, are not her type... (my, my, are we being picky...)

What puzzled me reading this book, was the rather spastic activities:  it really felt as if I was watching a movie, where separate frames of film were played one after another, with no real continuity. This reinforces the tragic end, and even the hopelessness for Lise - she just didn't stand a chance.  The almost paranoid outbursts she has at various incidents, also work up towards the climax at the end of the book. I could almost feel the eagerness she felt towards her purpose...

The old lady, who will play an indirect role in Lise's demise, provides the humorous (for me) part of the book:  "(Men) want their equality today.  All I say is that if God had intended them to be as good as us he wouldn't have made them different from us to the naked eye... They won't be content with equal rights only.  Next thing they'll want the upper hand, mark my words".  So, if I understand well, we're way beyond the feminist movement, women are now superior to men, and quite soon we'll have the counter-feminist revolution...

I can honestly say I've never read anything like this  book before and am therefore intrigued to find more about Spark's novels. Thanks to Simon and Harriet I've discovered a new writer I want to read more, and thanks to Spark, I've also discovered the Lost Man Booker short-list - another TBR list that will keep me well supplied with books!

For the visual interpretation of this novel, I watched the film by the same name with Elizabeth Taylor.  I fully recommend it - Taylor is as mad as I had imagined Lise to be...

Also read for the European Reading Challenge


  1. Thanks for participating! This is the book which made me love Spark (even though it was the third I read) - deliciously dark and odd. I really want to see the film, but it was't released in this country.

    1. She was a real gem - thanks for hosting a great challenge!

  2. "...when Lise talks in a baby voice - never a good indicator when it comes to women." LOL - so true!

  3. That doesn't sound like any of the Spark's books I've read, but she is a favorite of mine. Thanks for the info on the Spark blog event.

    Thanks for including your review on the European Reading Challenge.

    1. it is unusual to be surprised by a favourite author, isn't it? thanks for hosting the challenge!

  4. I think the film first and then perhaps the book will do it for me. Interesting review.

    1. The film is much more "crazy", so in that respect perhaps you won't find the book that suprising afterwards...




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...