Thursday, October 13, 2005

Book 52: The Finishing School, by Muriel Spark

This slim little novel brilliantly examines the sorts of jealousies that occur between creative sorts. The book is set, as the title suggests, at a European school. It is managed/owned/maintained by a husband-wife team who basically accept just enough students to stay in business. The husband handles the teaching of creative writing, while the wife is more or less responsible for…everything else. When one of the husband's writing students emerges as a potential talent with a book in progress and the potential for a deal with a publisher, the school's headmaster becomes almost insane with envy. His behavior begins to tend toward the self-destructive - so much so that it begins to cause problems with his wife and some of the students. The book's ending, while not a real surprise, is a nice, tidy little bit of resolution. Spark has a gift with words and is able to impart a surprising amount in a book that is so brief. It's particularly relevant for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be in competition with other artistic individuals.

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