Monday, April 16, 2012

Muriel Spark Reading Week (April 23-29)

Sometimes we just need to shake things up and try something new.  Recently I was in a bit of a rut with books.  My book group had a meeting and I discovered that it was my turn to pick the next book.  I needed some inspiration and so turned to some of my favorite literary bloggers.  After reading a few blogs, I decided to go with "The Shooting Party" by Isabel Colgate.  Rachel at Book Snob recommended it.  There are so many excellent book blogs out there!  One of my favorites is "Stuck in a Book." Simon Thomas writes reviews and recommendations of his favorite books and I often find myself reading through his archives, looking for a book to read.  Yesterday I noticed that he is hosting a MURIEL SPARK READING WEEK from April 23-29.  I've never participated in one of these and have decided to try this one.  I am very excited!

Simon suggests that we read one or more books by Muriel Spark, let him know that we have done so, and then at the end of the week he will post a collection of our comments and reviews.  Since most people have read "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," he is hoping we will branch out and read one of Muriel Spark's other books.  There are 22 all together and most of them are very short.   I am going to read "A Far Cry From Kensington" or "Loitering with Intent" and will write a review of it on my blog during the week of April 23.  I hope some of you will join me in this fun literary event. When you go to Simon's blog,  click on the "MURIEL SPARK READING WEEK" post that you will find on the sidebar to learn more about it.

I am looking forward to learning more about Muriel Spark and her books through this community reading event. "The Prime of Miss Brodie" is one of my favorite books (the only one I really know well) and the film based on it with Maggie Smith was excellent.  "Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she will be mine for life," says Miss Jean Brodie as she brags about her influence on her girls.  Can't you just hear Maggie Smith delivering that line in her trademark style?

I did a little research on Muriel Spark and learned a few interesting things about her life:

Muriel Camberg was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 1, 1918.  She attended James Gillespie's High School for Girls, where she became one of the "creme de la creme" students selected for a specialized and somewhat unorthodox curriculum by Christina Kay, the teacher who would become the model for Jean Brodie.
Muriel married Sydney Oswald Spark at age 19 and moved with him to Africa where he became a teacher.  The marriage did not work out but it produced one child, a son.  She kept her married name.  She returned to England in 1944 and worked in London in the Foreign Office for the remainder of World War II.  After that, she had several different jobs before becoming a full-time writer and actually lived out of Britain for much of her life.  When she died in 2006 she had been living in Tuscany for many years.

This will be my first Reading Challenge.  I would love to know if you have ever participated in an event like this.  Have you read any of Muriel Spark's books and, if so, which would you recommend?

If you get a chance, please check out some of these excellent blogs.  You can always rely on the writers to send you on an interesting reading adventure and you will never be without a good book to read:

Stuck in a Book
Book Snob
The Captive Reader
Roses Over A Cottage Door
Vintage Reads

You will feel part of a literary community when you start reading these wonderful blogs.  Happy Reading!


  1. What a lovely post, thank you for spreading the word - and you are so right about the community of book blogs, it is a lovely place to be.

    I'm really excited to see Spark reviews from across the blogosphere - I've read a couple in advance, and I'm planning on reading her autobiography Curriculum Vitae during the week itself.

  2. I am really looking forward to next week, too. It is going to be wonderful to see what everyone ends up reading. I've picked up Loitering with Intent and Curriculum Vitae, neither of which I've read before. I am trying to get my hands on A Far Cry From Kensington but inexplicably the library only has one copy and it might not get to me in time. I love the cover on your copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!

  3. I like reading challenges, often as they prompt me to read books I've been meaning to and as a way of 'getting to know' other bloggers better. I'm joining in with a Victorian reading challenge to re read Jane Eyre, that I've been meaning to for a while. Happy Reading.

  4. Wonderful post. I am always looking for books to add to my endless "to read" list. If I only had the time to read them all. I read "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" many many years ago. I am looking forward to checking out all the mentioned book blogs. Oh I do love an excuse to pick up yet another book. I truly am hopeless!

    I am interested to learn more of how your group selects books. We meet in the beginning of reading year and choose books for the year. Through the years it has come to my attention we have a few voices a little stronger than others.

    Thanks, Bonnie

    1. I am in two book clubs. One has a facilitator who usually chooses the books, with our input. The other group is more casual, and we take turns picking the book. The person who chooses it does some research and presents it at the meeting. We came up with a plan which allows everyone one to have a "voice" -- we go around the table and each person speaks for about 5 minutes and says what she thought about the book. Then we break into general discussion. It has worked well for us. BTW, I am really enjoyed reading Muriel Spark's "Loitering with Intent." It is very funny!

    2. I have not been able to find any of Spark's books locally. I've requested her autobiography from the library. I am hoping it will come in the next day or two. I picked up "A Room of One's Own" to reread while I am waiting.

    3. Bonnie, I already had an old edition of "Loitering with Intent." But I had to order "A Far Cry from Kensington" from Amazon and they had a copy. I also couldn't find any of her books at local book stores.

  5. How lovely of you to mention my humble blog, Sunday! I've recently finished 'A Far Cry From Kensington' and can highly recommend it. Just the sort of book to sink into the sofa with on a rainy day...or any day! Looking forward to reading your thoughts on either book you choose, or both.

  6. I had no idea she wrote so many! I must investigate!
    Yes, I can still hear Dame Maggie talking about her "gels".
    And thank you for more delightful book blogs to visit!!!

  7. I'm taking part in this challenge too. I find that challenges encourage me to expand my reading horizon. I've chosen The Hothouse by the East River for this one. Joanne

  8. A wonderful, thoughtful post. Anytime you write about books, I'm hooked from the first sentence!

  9. I'm looking forward to reading all the Spark thoughts next week! I am reading Memento Mori in preparation and am truly enjoying it. Her sense of humor is so sly.
    I enjoy all the book blogs that you do and love learning about 'new' classic books that I can discover for myself through these marvelous bloggers!

  10. Thank you--I enjoyed learning more about Muriel Spark. I have been thinking about participating in this challenge, too. I have read the two Spark books you're planning on reading but have never read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!