Monday, 1 October 2012

MURIEL SPARK THE BIOGRAPHY – Martin Stannard, 2009

 I love Muriel Spark.

She faced troubles head on and she wrote some splendid works of fiction.
This biography captures her perfectly.
I saw the TV version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie when I was about ten years old and connected with it instantly. Later, I watched the film with Maggie Smith in the main role and loved that, too. The book came later and was a revelation. There are subtle differences, some of which, I think, were improved on in the film. But it is the quality of the writing and the intricacy of the characterisation which took me aback. Miss Brodie is so colourful that the nuances of her personality are not fully explored by any dramatisation I have seen. The novel, however, made her complete. Perhaps it is because we never expect a literary, rather than a pictorial representation, to fill in all the blanks, but I love the Miss Brodie of the novel (and the Sandy and the Edinburgh) more, maybe because we know all our questions won’t be answered.
Miss Jean Brodie remained, for many years, all I knew of Muriel Spark. I admired the author for her creation but knew little of the woman herself.
The biography was a birthday present from my brother and what an inspired choice it was! It has made me want to buy and read her entire back catalogue (watch this space). It is a hefty tome, so I put it to one side until I had a long train journey over the summer, and then I dived in.
Martin Stannard was chosen by Spark, herself. She did not mind what he wrote but she obviously had faith in him. What he does here, which is so clever, is to bring her life back into focus. She was a vibrant but reclusive author so insights into her character are not easily obtained.
I wish I had met her but I would not like to cross her.

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