Set on the crazier fringes of 1950s literary London, Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington is a delight, hilariously portraying love, fraud, death, evil, and transformation.
A Far Cry From Kensington Synopsis
Mrs. Hawkins, the majestic narrator of A Far Cry from Kensington, takes us well in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. There, as a fat and much admired young war widow, she spent her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher (“of very good books”) and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house.
At work and at home, Mrs. Hawkins soon uncovered evil: shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters, blackmail, and suicide. With aplomb, however, Mrs. Hawkins confidently set about putting things to order, little imagining the mayhem that would ensue.
Now decades older, thin, successful, and delighted with life in Italy—quite a far cry from Kensington—Mrs. Hawkins looks back to all those dark doings and recounts how her own life changed forever. She still, however, loves to give advice: “It’s easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half…. I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book.”
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This is one of those rare occasions where the novel lives up to and exceeds the expectations set by the publisher’s synopsis.
I just adored protagonist narrator Mrs Hawkins – a somewhat reluctant Dorothy Dix,wise beyond her years and a speaker of her mind.
Hector Bartlett, it seemed to me, vomited literary matter. He urinated and sweated, he excreted it.
“Mrs Hawkins, I take inculpable pains with my prose style.”
He did indeed. The pain showed. His writing writhed and ached with twists and turns and tergivisations, inept words, fanciful repetition, far fetch verbosity and long latin based words.
In Mrs Hawkins, Spark has projected such an endearing character, whose traits we can all identify with and seek to emulate – a woman before her time.
Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry From Kensington is a true delight – hilarious, witty, and oozing with ‘real’ class.
The audio version of this novel is an example of the magic that can happen when a book is matched with the perfect narrator. Pamela Garelick’s performance in the role of Mrs Hawkins is outstanding. She conveys the considered, darkly satirical and strident voice of Mrs Hawkins with aplomb. Her voice is a pleasure to listen to. I will be seeking out more works narrated by Garelick in future.
My immense enjoyment of A Far Cry From Kensington left me berating myself for not having read the works of Muriel Spark earlier. Her literary voice really stuck a chord with me – I thought there was a real clarity and integrity in her writing style.
Having read A Far Cry From Kensington, it is no surprise to me Spark earned several Booker Prize nominations and among other accolades was listed as one of The Times ’50 Greatest British Writers since 1945′.
I am now simply trying to decide which of her extensive catalogue I will treat myself to next…
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Genre: Mystery, Romance, Drama, Literature, Audio
About the Author, Muriel Spark
Like many lauded for their creativity, it seems Dame Muriel Spark had a somewhat tumultuous private life.
- Obituary: Dame Muriel Spark (The Guardian)