Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aiding and Abetting: A Novel by Muriel Spark

Another summer reading book by the unmatched master of the sentence, Muriel Spark. Another short review from me for a short book.

AA is a re-imagining of the Earl Lucan story that gripped the UK in the seventies and beyond. Basically a story about class and privilege, the Lucan case consists of a few major facts: Lucan was a gambler, his nanny was attacked and murdered in his home, his wife was brutally attacked soon after and then Lucan disappeared, likely aided in his escape by his rich friends. Occasional Lucan sightings in exotic spots like Australia and North Africa continued to feed the story for years later but the erstwhile earl was never found.

Spark takes this very real story and fictionalizes it. Her main creation is another mysterious person, a popular and expensive psychiatrist named Hildegard Wolf who practices in Paris and has an enviable love life. I like Hildegard because Spark has filled her out well; each time she appeared I the book I saw her in my mind vividly. As her story is revealed, she becomes more interesting and the way she becomes tangled in the Lucan affair is nicely invented. Of course Spark invented it all, besides the facts of the case, and it hangs together so plausibly, so perfectly that I thought about it alongside being thoroughly entertained.

Although I say above that Spark is a sentence master, there was no one line (or two) that I felt would capture the charm of AA. But the secret may be that in this sweet little mystery story, Spark breezily covers class issues in Britain, identity, crime, growing up and getting away with it. And just because it goes down easy doesn’t mean that her take on stuff won’t be working away in the back of your brain for some time. It is not her best but it is a perfect summer read or maybe a good book for a cold winter night.

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