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The last months of World War II bring unforgettable experiences to the residents of a young spinsters' club in Londons' West End
"Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions," begins The Girls of Slender Means, Dame Muriel Spark's tragic and rapier-witted portrait of a London ladies' hostel just emerging from the shadow of World War II. Like the May of Teck Club itself—"three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit"—its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal: practicing elocution, and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. The novel's harrowing ending reveals that the girls' giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragically painful war wounds. Chosen by Anthony Burgess as one of the Best Modern Novels in the Sunday Times of London, The Girls of Slender Means is a taut and eerily perfect novel by an author The New York Times has called "one of this century's finest creators of comic-metaphysical entertainment."
The brevity of Muriel Spark's novels is equaled only by their brilliance. These four novels, each a miniature masterpiece, illustrate her development over four decades. Despite the seriousness of their themes, all four are fantastic comedies of manners, bristling with wit. Spark's most celebrated novel, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, tells the story of a charismatic schoolteacher's catastrophic effect on her pupils. THE GIRLS OF SLENDER MEANS is a beautifully drawn portrait of young women living in a hostel in London in the giddy postwar days of 1945. THE DRIVER'S SEAT follows the final haunted hours of a woman descending into madness. And THE ONLY PROBLEM is a witty fable about suffering that brings the Book of Job to bear on contemporary terrorism. All four novels give evidence of one of the most original and unmistakable voices in contemporary fiction. Characters are vividly etched in a few words; earth-shaking events are lightly touched on. Yet underneath the glittering surface there is an obsessive probing of metaphysical questions: the meaning of good and evil, the need for salvation, the search for significance.
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