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 london Sunday Times Review, 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 Girls of Slender Means, are a group of girls that live in post-war London in 1945, and reside at the May of Teck Club, which is a hostel or group home. In the present, one of the characters, Jane Wright, who does “brain work” in the “world of books”, is trying to contact all of the other girls who were in the May of Teck Club with her, to inform them of an event that takes place. This book is written in many characters points of view, and at first I had trouble keeping up with who was who. The book also jumps from past to present, and it takes a second to figure out which year you are in. The ending of this book was a little shocking, which makes it worth reading. This is a very short novel; however the writing style makes it a little harder to read. Muriel Spark throws in poetry at random places, and repeats it over and over (one of the girls is teaching elocution), which seems to halt the story as much as her jumping from viewpoint and time period. No one in my book club was happy with this book choice.
I wouldn’t really recommend this book to anyone, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it either. I don’t regret reading this book, but I definitely won’t read it again.
Have you guys read this book? What did you think? Did you find it as difficult to read as my book club did?