The Girls of Slender Means - Muriel Spark

What an odd story. What an odd composition.

Told mostly in flashbacks, The Girls of Slender Means tells of a group of girls who share lodgings at a home for women under 30 who have limited means of income. The story is mostly set during the summer of 1945 – between the end of the war in Europe and in the Far East.

As a snap-shot of the time that the story is set in, this books works wonderfully well. Spark had a gift for preserving details in the pages of her books that other authors may have have left out in favour of prolonged dialogue or inner monologue. Not so with Spark – her details bring to life both the characters and the atmosphere that frame the plot. Well, the little plot there is.

There is a plot, but it struck me that the development of the plot seemed to counteract the development of the characters – the more likeable or “human” the characters became, the more it seemed that the plot of the book tried to make them suffer – as in, first Spark got us to care fore the characters and then she throws in our face that the characters were surrounded by a world of horribleness. Like a vanity painting that reminds us that nothing lasts and that all snap shots only depict a certain angle.

While Spark’s writing is impressive, I could not help but compare The Girls of Slender Means with the other two books of hers that I have read – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and A Far Cry From Kensington.

The Girls almost read like a sequel to Miss Jean Brodie but I think this is exactly where it didn’t work for me – it was too similar not to make comparisons and I couldn’t enjoy it as an independent story quite as much.


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