Monday, 8 October 2012

THE BALLAD OF PECKHAM RYE – Muriel Spark, 1960

Another gem from Muriel Spark. This novel skips along at such a rate, that it is a disappointment when it is finished.
Dougal Douglas may, or may not, have had horns surgically removed from his skull but there is no doubting his devious ways. What is so surprising is how the reader comes to admire him and wish him well in his endeavours to deceive and destroy. Perhaps we should compare him to Satan in Paradise Lost (Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven)? But his motivation is less clear. Douglas wants an easy life; he wants to claim a salary – or two - for doing not a lot; he wants to upset and unsettle any characters he meets and put a spoke in their relationships. But he is also aware of his own fatal flaw. If he could cope with sickness, he would be able to marry Jinny, the only person he truly loves. That he cannot deal with her weakness, leads him to exploit everyone else’s.
I’m not sure that I fully experienced the laugh-out-loud-humour which was promised by the blurb on the back but in a way I’m glad I did not. Subtlety is far more appealing and Spark captures just the right amount of it. 

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