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The Takeover by Muriel Spark

The Takeover (1976)

by Muriel Spark

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Being an enthousiastic Spark-reader, this book had me dissappointed. It displays one the few flaws I seem to find unforgivable in any book: the hoarding of improbable events and personalities in a realistic setting. Everything seems to be painted with too heavy a brush, some of which may qualify as satire, but which in the end is neither funny nor enticing. Nothing wrong with the language, of course, which is fluently written and does its share to keep you reading even though the characters are exasparating and unreal. And yes, some of the conversations (a Spark specialty) are hilarious. Still, it's all far too unlikely for comfort and with the protagonists not providing any development, the implausible proceedings ultimately just annoy. By far the least succesful novel I have read of this writer. ( )
  karamazow | Apr 12, 2017 |
I think very highly of Dame Muriel Spark, but this is not one of my favorites (so far there are two: _The Mandelbaum Gate_ and _The Hot House by the East River_). I have liked everything I've read by her, but I think you sort of have to be in the mood for her at times. She can be a bit too whacky at times and can get tiresome (whacky can be difficult to sustain even if it works) - I suspect this is why her books tend to be slim. However, she's obviously intelligent and I think she manages to capture certain things about life that few other authors manage as well. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
It is an odd aspect of the process of reading that some books are easy to read and seem to grow, making the experience of reading fluent and enriching; others seem to stick, they proceed in fits and starts; completing them seems like an achievement rather than a culmination. Is this distinction due to a property of the book or is it to do with the reader, the mood, the condition of the moment in which the book is read? This is a difficult matter to decide upon and maybe only a thoroughgoing phenomenology of reading could address it.

Either way, here is an example of a book that sticks, even as it appeals. While seeing this as a sophisticated and witty novel, it was very difficult for me to find its underlying rhythm and pace. I had a similar experience with "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" many years ago. The story of Maggie Radcliife and the dubious fate of her capital as it is variously transferred, stolen, returned and transformed, it is a satire of the increasing materialism of its era, the 1970s.The background, about the oil crisis and its attendant economic impact, is sketched in a little heavily at times, but the focus is always on the jet set characters associated with the the houses Maggie owns in the ancient grotto of Nemi, once the haunt of the goddess Diana. The story of Hubert Mallindaine is intimately associated with this: he is another typical post-Christian figure, defrauding Maggie on the one hand and on the other establishing a preposterous neo-pagan cult of Diana, to whom he has convinced himself he is related. The band of associated corrupt lawyers, mafiosi and decadent communists provide satirical possibilties as the plot progresses; and the rather pathetic figure of Pauline Thin, Hubert's secretary, provides a humane and fallible counterpoint to the confident and over-bearing power broking of the main characters.

In summary, this already seems a better novel than I had in mind when I started this review. And I haven't even covered the burglaries, kidnapping, art dealing and, of course, the accidental orgy which emerge as the story develops! Maybe I should give it a second chance? ( )
  elyreader | Jun 21, 2014 |
This novel is about expats in the 70s in Italy. The central figures are Maggie, a much-married wealthy woman, and Hubert, a gay man who insists he’s a direct descendent of the goddess Diana. The writing is facile, sometimes funny, but the characters do begin to drive you crazy after a while. They have exotic ruts, but they are ruts none the less. Those with highly developed senses of sarcasm are likely to enjoy this book more. ( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
I enjoyed the story as an ironic farce, but not sure I got the "parable" aspect of it touted on the cover? ( )
  Seajack | Mar 10, 2008 |
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At Nemi, that previous summer, there were three new houses of importance to the surrounding district.
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When American heiress Maggie Radcliffe relocates to the enchanting Lake Nemi, just south of Rome, she does so wishing to live in tune with ancient pagan rhythms of art and nature. Constantly surrounded by a cast of quirky characters, Radcliffe finds her latest guest in the form of old friend--and unrepentant grafter--Hubert Mallindaine. Mallindaine claims to be a direct descendent of the goddess Diana, whose spirit is said to rest at Nemi. As soon as he arrives, Radcliffe's vast material wealth begins to slip quietly out the door. While Radcliffe attempts to evict Mallindaine from her house, a host of new problems arise, all threatening to destroy everything Radcliffe holds dear.… (more)

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