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Muriel Spark: The Biography

by Martin Stannard

Biography / Autobiography

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Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography 2010.


This biography, written with full co-operation from Muriel Spark, before her death in 2006, is a wonderful testament to a life lived to the full. From her working class upbringing in Edinburgh to married life in Rhodesia, fleeing back to Scotland, moving to New York and eventually ending her days in Tuscany, Sparks life was extraordinary and fulfilling. A great insight in to a fascinating character.

Muriel Spark: The Biography Synopsis

Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark ended as the epitome of literary chic, one of the great writers of the twentieth century. It is a Cinderella story, the first thirty-nine years of which she presented in her autobiography, CURRICULUM VITAE (1992), politely blurring the intensity of her darker moments: her relations with her brother, mother, son, husband; a terrifying period of hallucinations and subsequent depression; and the disastrously misplaced love she had felt for two men she had wanted to marry, Howard Sergeant and Derek Stanford. Aged nineteen, Spark left Scotland to marry in Southern Rhodesia, escaping back to Britain on a troopship in 1944 after her divorce. Her son returned in 1945 to be brought up by her parents in Edinburgh while she established herself as a poet and critic in London. After becoming a Roman Catholic in 1954, she began a novel, THE COMFORTERS (1957), and with MEMENTO MORI, THE BALLAD OF PECKAM RYE and THE BACHELORS rose rapidly into the literary stratosphere. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1961), with its adaptation into a successful stage-play and film, marked her full translation into international celebrity and from that point she went to live first in New York, then Rome, and finally Tuscany where for over thirty years, until her death in 2006, she shared a house with her companion, the artist Penelope Jardine. In 1992 Spark invited Martin Stannard to write her biography, offering interviews and full access to her papers. The result is a compelling portrait of an extraordinary life.

Muriel Spark: The Biography Press Reviews

'She would surely be pleased with the finished product... his triumph is to have produced an account that survived her scrutiny yet reveals her vanity and egotism so unmistakably, as well as her courage, vitality and determination.' - JOHN CAREY THE SUNDAY TIMES LEAD REVIEW

‘its research into her life certainly is detailed and fascinating... an exhaustive and fascinating story.' - GEORDIE GREIG, EDITOR THE EVENING STANDARD

'This fine life explains why Muriel Spark numbers among the creme de la creme of modern novelists... many fine vignettes... this is a biography that has been worth the long wait.' - JONATHAN BATE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH'S SEVEN MAGAZINE

'Martin Stannard's biography will become the standard work on one of Britain's finest postwar writers.’ - MARK BOSTRIDGE THE OBSERVER

’Stannard is particularly interesting on Spark's early, unredeemed years... a gifted biographer with a fine turn of phrase.’ - BRIAN CHEYETTE THE INDEPENDENT

’a biography to be savoured by the initiate, bringing out her complexities and idiosyncrasies.’ - IAN RANKIN THE SCOTSMAN

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780297815921
Publication date: 30/07/2009
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780297815921
Publication date: 30th July 2009
Author: Martin Stannard
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Hardback
Genres: Biography / Autobiography,

About Martin Stannard

Martin Stannard is Professor of English Literature at the University of Leicester.

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