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The Comforters (1957)

by Muriel Spark

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4952347,651 (3.71)44
In Muriel Spark's fantastic first novel, the only things that aren't ambiguous are her matchless originality and glittering wit.

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» See also 44 mentions

English (22)  Spanish (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Muriel Spark should be credited with being one of the most inventive writers of the 20th century. This book is no exception, and will certainly keep you thinking throughout. There is only one problem with this otherwise excellent novel - it doesn't feel like it actually goes anywhere. There is forward momentum of a sort, but it feels like this is a parody of momentum, just as the book itself is a parody of a book. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Apr 15, 2023 |
Caroline Rose is in a state. She’s hearing voices. And typewriters. The voices appear to be narrating her innermost thoughts. The ones she’s just had. It’s almost as though she were merely a character in a novel. And what would that make of Laurence, her particular friend, or the phony Baron, or Laurence’s grandmother, Louisa Depp, who may actually be involved in a diamond smuggling gang? Honestly there might as well also be black masses and miracles, witches and merchant seamen. Caroline is convinced that if this is a novel, it must be terrible, and she, for one, intends to break out of it if it’s the last thing she does.

Muriel Spark’s audacious first novel is as tricksy and zany as a Marx Brothers film. It gets tiresome after a while, but perhaps our tolerance for zaniness is stunted these days. Certainly the writing is full of verve and enthusiasm. Though whether or not it somehow explores the very nature of form in the modern novel may be overstating things. It’s hard to imagine now how Spark’s peers must have responded to her daring, or how much they must have feared her emergence into her full powers as a comic novelist.

Certainly recommended if only as a wonderful introduction to this comic master. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Dec 5, 2022 |
Playful and mischievous, this book walks us through a carefully crafted web of coincidences led by a quirky cast of characters. Caroline is the most intriguing as she walks awake among her own, recording their stories. This is the door to greater philosophy: are we the masters or the puppets of our lives? do we have free will or is our destiny re-ordained? While Sparks hints to an answer, the tale is fluid enough that there is no clear answer, making this book both delightful and impish. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Aug 11, 2021 |
A bewitching read.
  thishannah | Jul 17, 2018 |
Muriel Spark's first novel is witty, inventive and thoroughly delightful. The genre-bending tale, part mystery, part meta-fiction, part spiritual crisis is full of eccentric characters, succinctly described in thorold's review below. Enthralled, I read the book in one afternoon. It was my first experience with Spark (aside from the film of [The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie]. It won't be my last. ( )
  janeajones | Apr 9, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Muriel Sparkprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dilé, LéoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
İlkin, ArmağanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massie, AllanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Naujack, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, AliIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, AlanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zamanillo, NarcisoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Alan and Edwina Barnsley
With Love
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In 1957, the year of first publication of The Comforters, angry young men were all the rage in literary Britain. (Introduction)
On the first day of his holiday Laurence Manders woke to hear his grandmother's voice below.
However, as soon as Mrs. Hogg stepped into her room she disappeared, she simply disappeared. She had no private life whatsoever. God knows where she went in her privacy.
'The decor of Brompton Oratory makes me ill,' she told him, as another excuse. For when he had met her after the Mass she had turned most sour.
'You don't refer to the "decor" of a church,' he said - 'at least, I think not.'
'What is it then?'
'I'm not sure of the correct term. I've never heard it called a "decor".'
'Very useful, your having been brought up a Catholic,' said Caroline. 'Converts can always rely on your kind for instruction in the non-essentials.'
Louisa opened a drawer in the kitchen dresser, ... brought out her airmail writing paper and her fountain pen and wrote a note of six lines. ... Next she put away her fountain pen, then the writing paper, took up the note and went out into her garden.
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In Muriel Spark's fantastic first novel, the only things that aren't ambiguous are her matchless originality and glittering wit.

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Caroline Rose is plagued by the tapping of typewriter keys and the strange, detached narration of her every thought and action. Caroline has an unusual problem - she realises she is in a novel. Her fellow characters also seem deluded: Laurence, her former lover, finds diamonds in a loaf of bread - has his elderly grandmother hidden them there? And Baron Stock, her bookseller friend, believes he is on the trail of England's leading Satanist. In Muriel Spark's brilliant first novel, the only things that aren't ambiguous are her matchless originality and glittering wit.
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