'One of her funniest novels . . . Spark at her sharpest, her purest and her most merciful' ALI SMITH
In The Finishing School Muriel Spark is once again at her biting, satirical best. On the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, a struggling would-be novelist and his wife run a finishing school of questionable reputation to keep the funds flowing. When a seventeen-year-old student's writing career begins to show great promise, tensions begin to run high.
A keen portrait of devouring regret, psychological unravelling and the glittering promise of youth, The Finishing School is the perfect natural partner to Muriel Spark's most famous novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
A swift, blithe comedy of sexual and creative jealousy plays out on the grounds of a dubious finishing school in Dame Spark's gem of a novel, her 22nd. College Sunrise, founded by would-be novelist Rowland Mahler and his practical wife, Nina Parker, is a mobile institution (currently situated in Lausanne) at which very little of use is taught. Rowland does preside over a popular creative writing class (with five students, it boasts more than half the school's enrollment), while Nina takes care of the office business and dispenses delicious advice in her informal etiquette seminars ("f you, as a U.N. employee, are chased by an elephant stand still and wave a white handkerchief. This confuses the elephant's legs"). Trouble arrives in the form of redheaded, 18-year-old Chris Wiley, who has come to College Sunrise to work on his novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. Chris's authorial insouciance he is supremely confident of his talents and rather dismissive of historical fact infuriates Rowland, whose ego was inflated by minor early successes and who has a terrible case of writer's block. Rowland becomes obsessed with the novel and its creator, and their struggle " 'I could kill him,' thought Rowland. 'But would that be enough?' " forms the heart of the book, even as other players, sketched briefly but brilliantly (the "tall and lonely" Tilly, princess of an unknown and perhaps fictitious country; the sweet, stupid Mary Foot, who wants to own a "sahramix" shop) fall in and out of love and beds. Spark, who is 86, writes in a polished, rather old-fashioned tone (references to "punk music," laptops and other things of the modern world surprise), but this is a cool, delightful little book of bad deeds and good manners.