Home > 2000, 21st Century, British Literature, Novel, Spark Muriel > Muriel & me Part II: the cold shower

Muriel & me Part II: the cold shower

Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark French title: Complices et comparses.

I’m a participant of the Muriel Spark Week hosted by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Harriet from Harriet Devine’s Blog. I read The Prime of Miss Brodie in December and I wasn’t thrilled by it but it is nonetheless an excellent book. One of my problems with it was the language, I had a paperback edition and I thought my next Spark should be in kindle format, to have a constant access to a dictionary. This is how I ended up reading Aiding and Abetting.

Hmm. As the title of the post gives it away, this wasn’t a good experience. And as I’m even too lazy to sum up the plot, here is the blurb from Amazon

Aiding and Abetting opens sometime late in the 20th century, when an Englishman in his 60s walks into the Paris practice of famed Bavarian psychiatrist Dr Hildegard Wolf and announces that he is the missing Lord Lucan. Yet Hildegard is already treating one self-confessed Lord Lucan. And what’s more, both patients seem to have dirt on her–for isn’t she really Beate Pappenheim, a notorious fraud who used her menstrual blood to fake her stigmata? Fearing for her safety, Hildegard flees to London, where her path inevitably crosses that of two British Lucan hunters.

And oh surprise! My laziness taught me something, the Lucan case is a real one!! Being French, I TOTALLY missed that which can explain why I didn’t enjoy the book.

The reasons I had in mind before attempting to write a review and discovering that the underlying case is a real one were that:

– I didn’t care at all to discover who the real Lucan was,

– I didn’t like Hildegard and her French boy-friend Jean-Pierre,

– I didn’t buy the ludicrous side adventure of Lacey and what’s-his-name-again? sixty-years old lover (not a good sign when you don’t remember the names)

It’s well-written but the construction is chaotic, the characters highly improbable. I only finished it because it was only 176 pages long. I wonder if Muriel Spark is too British to be enjoyed elsewhere. There seem to be references a foreigner can’t catch and you don’t even realize you’re missing something. I felt the same when reading The Prime of Miss Brodie.

One positive thing though: now I know what aiding and abetting means…

After a disastrous moment with Remarkable Creatures and that chore, I rushed to In the Absence of Men by Philippe Besson, convinced I’d have a great time. I was right and I’ll see you in a few days with the ecstatic review of this French novel.

  1. April 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Real case or not… I won’t rush to read this one either. A Far Cry from Kensington which Guy reviewed sounds quite good and I read a nice review of Robinson.
    I think if not even Miss Brodie worked for you…


    • April 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      A Far Cry From Kensington could be my next try. I’m not in a hurry though.


  2. April 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I can see how this didn’t work for you. The Lord Lucan case was huge at the time and a number of books (fiction, non-fiction) have been written about it.

    I think I’ll go over my Spark stack and see if there’s another one that might appeal later.


    • April 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Yes, I even found a Wikipedia page about him! It’s so huge there isn’t even a foreword from the publisher. I guess there is something in the French edition. Reading in translation can be handy…


  3. April 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Two luke warm reads in a row is a pisser….


    • April 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      Yes, I turned to someone I knew would probably be good. Without the Besson, I was heading for Hardy. Une valeur sure…


  4. April 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I just read the first page of Loitering with Intent on amazon and that’s such a funny beginning. i think I’d love to read that next after all.


  5. April 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I loved far cry but it was my first spark and from review I ve read robinson jumped out at me as well it sound slightly quirky ,all the best stu


    • April 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Apparently I didn’t choose the best one.

      I’ll wait for a little while before trying another one.


  6. Vishy
    April 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Interesting review, Emma. Sorry to know that you didn’t like ‘Aiding and Abetting’ as much as you liked (though glad to know that you understood better what that title meant :)) It is interesting that Muriel Spark’s novels are set in exotic places like Venice and Paris. It makes me think of Henry James, who used to do this. Looking forward to reading your review of Philippe Besson’s novel.


    • April 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      I guess it was doomed to happen. When I looked for the French title of Aiding and Abetting on a French online bookstore, it was written : “the readers who bought this book also bought The Hunger Games, Eragon 4 and Sept ans après…by Guillaume Musso” If there any truth in this, then there was no chance for me to enjoy Aiding and Abetting.


  7. April 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I find Muriel Spark difficult. ‘Loitering with Intent’ was my first, and I never really got to grips with that one. ‘The Prime of…’ was much better (for me) but I would be inclined to sum up Spark as clever but cold. There isn’t a lot of compassion for her characters.

    Having said that I do want to read ‘Momento Mori…’


    • April 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      I should try her in French, perhaps it would help.
      I’m tempted by A Far Cry from Kensington after reading Guy’s review.


  8. May 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

    It does sound like you picked entirely the wrong one unfortunately. I’ve never personally seen the interest of the Lucan case, but then I’m not a contemporary of it. At the time the book was written though explaining who he was would be like explaining who Strauss-Kahn is. It would be odd.

    Memento-Mori always tempts me, but my next will be A Far Cry as recently reviewed by both Stu and Guy.


    • May 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      I suppose you’re right about writing about the case but a introduction from the publisher would have been useful. I downloaded it on the US kindle store, I’m not sure that the American readership knows more than me about the Lucan case.
      Anyway, writers should pay attention not to write books that will not age well given the theme or the style (many brand names or actors or songs…)


      • May 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

        I wouldn’t expect a US audience to have the foggiest who Lord Lucan was, so yes, the publisher should have explained it.


  1. March 28, 2016 at 5:10 pm

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