The Driver’s Seat is the second book by Muriel Spark that I have read after The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Since it is only 128 pages, you’ll finish it in one sitting. But I must warn you; it will shock you a lot. That’s how I felt, at least. When the book was finished, I was in awe of what Spark could tell in a short novel before I realised what was going on.
The Driver’s Seat is a tense, shocking and intriguing book. We understand that the female character we read from the very beginning is a very troubled type. However, as the book progresses, we see that the character is very far from a normal person and is after something terrible. I won’t talk about the main topic to avoid spoilers, but I will focus on what Spark has packed into this short book.
With Spark’s fluent narration, you will read the events as if you were watching a film. The main character meets a lot of people on her journey. And through the characters she meets, you’ll see the whole spectrum of people, and you will read again the difficulties experienced by women wherever they are in the world.
From police brutality to racism, from stupid people who hate everything foreign to them to men who think they have the right to do anything, you’ll see it all. It is as if the world has gathered here with all its intolerance and cruelty. Besides all this, the main character knows very well what she is looking for; she understands at a glance whether she can get what she wants from the other person and accordingly, she is rushing towards her goal.
The Driver’s Seat is not a novel that will get you emotionally hooked. However, if you want to be surprised and read something a little different from the stories you always read, you might likeThe Driver’s Seat. Enjoy!
The Driver’s Seat
Described as ‘a metaphysical shocker’ at the time of its release, Muriel Sparks’ The Driver’s Seat is a taut psychological thriller, published with an introduction by John Lanchester in Penguin Modern Classics.
The Driver’s Seat: Lise has been driven to distraction by working in the same accountants’ office for sixteen years. So she leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly-dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime. But her search for adventure, sex and new experiences takes on a far darker significance as she heads on a journey of self-destruction. Infinity and eternity attend Lise’s last terrible day in an unnamed southern city, as she meets her fate. One of six novels to be nominated for a ‘Lost Man Booker Prize’, The Driver’s Seat was adapted into a 1974 film, Identikit, starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Muriel Spark (1918 – 2006) wrote poetry, stories, and biographies as well as a remarkable series of novels, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) which received the James Tait Black Prize, and The Public Image (1968) and Loitering with Intent (1981), both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Spark was awarded the T.S. Eliot Award for poetry in 1992, and the David Cohen Prize for literature in 1997.
If you enjoyed The Driver’s Seat, you might like Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
‘An extraordinary tour de force, a crime story turned inside out’
‘Her spiny and treacherous masterpiece’
Muriel Spark, in full Dame Muriel Sarah Spark, née Camberg, (born February 1, 1918, Edinburgh, Scotland—died April 13, 2006, Florence, Italy), British writer best known for the satire and wit with which the serious themes of her novels are presented.
Spark was educated in Edinburgh and later spent some years in Central Africa; the latter served as the setting for her first volume of short stories, The Go-Away Bird and Other Stories (1958). She returned to Great Britain during World War II and worked for the Foreign Office, writing propaganda. She then served as general secretary of the Poetry Society and editor of The Poetry Review (1947–49). She later published a series of critical biographies of literary figures and editions of 19th-century letters, including Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1951; rev. ed., Mary Shelley, 1987), John Masefield (1953), and The Brontë Letters (1954). Spark converted to Roman Catholicism in 1954.
Until 1957 Spark published only criticism and poetry. With the publication of The Comforters (1957), however, her talent as a novelist—an ability to create disturbing, compelling characters and a disquieting sense of moral ambiguity—was immediately evident. Her third novel, Memento Mori (1959), was adapted for the stage in 1964 and for television in 1992. Her best-known novel is probably The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), which centres on a domineering teacher at a girls’ school. It also became popular in its stage (1966) and film (1969) versions.
Some critics found Spark’s earlier novels minor; some of these works—such as The Comforters, Memento Mori, The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), and The Girls of Slender Means (1963)—are characterized by humorous and slightly unsettling fantasy. The Mandelbaum Gate (1965) marked a departure toward weightier themes, and the novels that followed—The Driver’s Seat (1970, film 1974), Not to Disturb (1971), and The Abbess of Crewe (1974)—have a distinctly sinister tone. Among Spark’s later novels are Territorial Rights (1979), A Far Cry from Kensington (1988), Reality and Dreams (1996), and The Finishing School (2004).
Other works include Collected Poems I (1967) and Collected Stories (1967). Her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, was published in 1992. The Informed Air (2014) is a posthumous collection of some of her nonfiction. Spark was made Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: