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A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
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A Far Cry from Kensington (original 1988; edition 2000)

by Muriel Spark

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7223113,019 (3.86)137
Member:KayCliff
Title:A Far Cry from Kensington
Authors:Muriel Spark
Info:New Directions (2000), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:novel, publishing in fiction, widow

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A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark (1988)

Recently added byprivate library, Inguling, bewogenlucht, majkia, lakeffect, camillahoel, Abibliophobia, sangreal, kwbridge
Legacy LibrariesGraham Greene
  1. 00
    Harpole and Foxberrow, General Publishers by J. L. Carr (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels feature publishers in fiction.
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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
3.5 stars
Here's what the New York Times's reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote about the author: "Here is the recipe for a typical Muriel Spark novel: take a self-enclosed community (of writers, schoolgirls, nuns, rich people, etc.) that is full of incestuous liaisons and fraternal intrigue; toss in a bombshell (like murder, suicide or betrayal) that will richochet dangerously around this little world, and add some allusions to the supernatural to ground these melodramatics in an old-fashioned context of good and evil. Serve up with crisp, authoritative prose and present with 'a light and heartless hand.' ". I don't know, but while accurate on the whole there seems something contradictory about this summation. I think it's the clash between "melodramatics" and "crisp, authoritative prose." The heartlessness is still here in this late novel (1988) but what once seemed outrageous no longer does. Therefore I am less enthusiastic for A Far Cry from Kensington that I was for earlier Spark novels, especially Memento Mori and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie--but then those were both 5-star masterpieces. Recommended with reservations. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
This is a very odd book!
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
This is a beautifully and cleverly written book of understated lives and understated humour. It made me laugh and and it made me feel as if I knew the characters and the world in which they live. Muriel Spark is a master of structure and style in her writing. Her succinctness despite a complex story also shows a strong control of plot and the ability to choose just the write words to sum up a particular moment. ( )
  NeilDalley | Oct 9, 2013 |
This is the story of a year in the life of Mrs. Hawkins, a war widow and editor at a failing publishing house in 1950s London. After insulting an untalented writer by calling him a ‘pisseur de copie,’ a series of strange events is set into motion, involving Mrs. Hawkins and the odd cast of characters who live with her in a rooming house. That’s all I’ll say plot-wise, as there’s a little mystery involved, and I don’t want to give anything away.

Meh. I don’t know. This was my first Muriel Spark novel, and I was prepared to have my mind blown, but in the end it sort of left me cold. It was an amusing, quick read and wasn’t painful in any way, but I expected more substance (and less clunky prose, quite frankly). I really hate to say this, but it was a tad chick-litish – Mrs. Hawkin's weight obsession, the general lack of character depth, the random male savior, etc. I got a few laughs, but other than that, I was disappointed. If anyone cares to steer me to a better Muriel Spark novel, I would be willing to give her another try. Taking into account other novelists I enjoy, you’d think I would like her. I’m puzzled by the whole thing. Actually, the best thing about the reading experience was the introduction by Ali Smith (although I obviously don't share her enthusiasm), which reminds me that I should read an Ali Smith novel, so there’s that. ( )
  DorsVenabili | Aug 17, 2013 |
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So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.
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Book description
When Mrs Hawkins tells Hector Bartlett he is a "pisseur de copie, that he 'urinates frightful prose', little does she realise the repercussions. Holding that 'no life can be carried on satisfactorily unless people are honest' she refuses to retract her judgement and, as Bartlett has friends in high places, this costs her not one, but two much-sought-after jobs in publishing.
Now, years older, successful and, happily, a far cry from Kensington, Mrs Hawkins looks back over the dark days that followed, in which she was embroiled in a mystery involving anonymous letters, quack remedies, blackmail and suicide.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0811214575, Paperback)

Set on the crazier fringes of 1950s literary London, A Far Cry from Kensington is a delight, hilariously portraying love, fraud, death, evil, and transformation.

Mrs. Hawkins, the majestic narrator of A Far Cry from Kensington, takes us well in hand, and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. There, as a fat and much admired young war widow, she spent her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher ("of very good books") and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming-house. At work and at home Mrs. Hawkins soon uncovered evil: shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters, blackmail, and suicide. With aplomb, however, Mrs. Hawkins confidently set about putting things to order, little imagining the mayhem which would ensue. Now decades older, thin, successful, and delighted with life in Italy -- quite a far cry from Kensington -- Mrs. Hawkins looks back to all those dark doings, and recounts how her own life changed forever. She still, however, loves to give advice: "It's easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half....I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book." A masterwork by "Britain's greatest living novelist" (Sunday Telegraph, 1999), A Far Cry from Kensington has been hailed as "outstanding" (The Observer) and "wickedly and adroitly executed" (The New York Times). "Far Cry is, among other things, a comedy that holds a tragedy as an egg-cup holds an egg" (Philadelphia Inquirer).

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:34 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Mrs. Hawkins takes us in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. There, as a fat but much admired young war widow, she spent her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher and her evenings dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house. At work and at home, Mrs. Hawkins soon uncovered evil: shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters, blackmail, and suicide. With aplomb, however, Mrs. Hawkins confidently set about putting things to order, little imagining the mayhem which would ensue." "Now decades older, thin, successful, and delighted with life in Italy - a far cry from Kensington - Mrs. Hawkins looks back to those dark doings, and recounts how her own life changed forever. She still, however, loves to give advice: "It's easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half ... I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book.""--Jacket.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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