Monday, 16 November 2009
A far cry from Kensington (Spark)
I had not previously read A far cry from Kensington so I was delighted to be reading a new Muriel Spark, and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I would concur with Kimbofo's review here that:
"To say I was utterly charmed by it would probably be an understatement. This is a deliciously enjoyable story that is so perfectly constructed it's almost impossible to find fault with it -- on any level. The prose is simple, the characters believable and the plot expertly drawn, so that you're never quite sure where it's going to take you and then feel overwhelmingly satisfied when you arrive at its destination."
The book tells the story of Mrs Hawkins, looking back 30 years to her life in South Kensington in the 1950s, as a young widow of 28, and the people and incidents in it. Living in a "rooming house" (a large house divided between landlady and lodgers), she encountered a number of interesting characters. About half of the book is devoted to description of this part of her life; we meet Wanda, the polish dressmaker who is being blackmailed and later commits suicide, Isabel, her younger neighbour who becomes pregnant and whose father tries to pursue Mrs Hawkins. the landlady Milly. The other half of the book concerns Mrs Hawkin's career in publishing and gives a witty insight into the industry; we see her dealing with manuscripts, undertaking editing and then proof reading.
I loved Spark's descriptions of the characters, and the episodic format of the plot and truly this was a hugely enjoyable read. I am very glad that Virago obtained the rights to re-publish this, especially as it also came out in one of the lovely hardback editions (see below), which I would love to lay my hands on to accompany my paperback.