Symposium

Fiction

Muriel Spark

Dame Muriel Spark delivers a delightfully alarming novel, full of high society and low cunning

One October evening five posh London couples gather for a dinner party, enjoying "the pheasant (flambé in cognac as it is)" and waiting for the imminent arrival of the late-coming guest Hilda Damien, who has been unavoidably detained due to the fact that she is being murdered at this very moment... Symposium was applauded by Time magazine for the "sinister elegance" of Muriel Spark's "medium of light but lethal comedy." Mixed in are a Monet, a mad uncle, some unconventional nuns, and a burglary ring run by a rent-a-butler. Symposium stars a perfectly evil young woman (a classic sweet-faced hair-raising Sparkian horror) who has married rich Hilda's son by hook or by crook, hooking him at the fruit counter of Harrod's. There is also spiritual conversation — and the Bordeaux is superb. "The prevailing mood is urbane: the wine is poured, the talk continues, and all the time the ice on which the protagonists' world rests is being thinned from beneath, by boiling emotions and ugly motives... No living writer handles the tension between formality of expression and subversiveness of thought more elegantly" (The Independent on Sunday).