I have been meaning to discuss ‘The Lost Man Booker Prize’ even if just in a small way for some time. So when I noticed that someone had ordered my copy of ‘The Driver’s Seat’ by Muriel Spark and I needed to read it ASAP so it could get back to the library it all seemed perfect timing. So I think before I mention a little something at the end of this post I really, really want to talk about ‘The Driver’s Seat’ a book which I now have every fibre of my being crossed for it to win this new fangled prize.
As the minimal 109 page novel ‘The Driver’s Seat’ by Muriel Spark opened I knew that with a main character like Lise that I, as the reader, was in for quite an unusual treat, mind you Muriel Spark always manages to create something quite special with any book she writes. As we meet her Lise is having a bad moment in a changing room whilst shopping for a dress for her impending holiday. The bad moment in question seems to be tearing of a dress in an offended rage after being told ‘the material doesn’t stain’ leads her to feel the saleswoman is being insulting by insinuating something or some things. As we spend more time with the ever contrary Lise you begin to realise that she is definitely not quite right mentally, yet when we look at her perfect uber-tidy and neat flat and her regular sixteen year job we begin to question ourselves.
In fact it seems that the holiday the dress is for is actually some form of much needed escape for Lise and so she in a way firmly grips the driving wheel of her life and promptly goes completely off the rails into crazy unknown territory, starting at the airport before she has even boarded the plane…
“She says ‘ When you travel as much as I do you have to travel light, and I tell you, I nearly didnt bring any luggage at all, because you can get everything you want at the other end, so the only reason I brought that suitcase there is that the customs get suspiciousif you come in and out without luggage. They think you’re smuggling dope and diamonds under your blouse, so I packed the usual things for a holiday, but it was all quite unnecessary, as you get to understand when you’ve travelled as you might say with the experience in four languages over the years, and you know what your doing -“
All this from the simple question of if she has any hand luggage. You can see somethings not right as she lies constantly (though she can speak languages) for example she has barely travelled in her life. It’s also one of the only scenes where the book hints at its date of publishing, now if you caused a scene like that in an airport you would be whisked away within seconds. She then carries on regardless and in doing so meets a small quirky cast of characters along the way and heading towards a climatic life event for herself. I can’t give away anymore than that without spoiling the plot. I will say that the opening paragraph of chapter three had me saying ‘what, no, surely not’ and despite a warning I still wasn’t quite prepared for the ending, clever twist indeed. No more shall I say on the subject of plots though.
I will say I think this has almost instantly become my favourite Spark yet. In comparison to some of the other works of hers I have read this has the darkest undertone despite its bright cover and flamboyant lead character. It also packed one of the hardest punches yet, and I will say I thought The Girls of Slender Means had a dark twist; this one hits you early on. It also see’s Muriel dabble in a genre that I wouldn’t have seen her try and yet she does brilliantly in her own Sparkish way. I realise I sound vague but I do so hate to spoil things and this is a book that should not be spoiled in any way at all and in fact if you haven’t read must be read immediately.
So this wonderful little book with a punch simply needs to win ‘The Lost Man Booker Prize’ no questions asked. It has hurt to give it back to the library it really has. I have probably jinxed it now, but if it doesn’t make the short list then I will be both shocked and appalled and might just kick off like I imagine Lise would. I bet you all thought I‘d have instantly said that any Susan Hill contending novel should win? What does everyone else think of this new Man Booker prize, a good idea or not? And what do we make of the long list? Who else thinks this book simply has to win? Who has indeed read this marvellous Spark novel and what did you think?