Symposium by Muriel Spark

Going into this book I didn’t know anything about it at all. I picked it up in The Works on a ‘3 for £5’ deal and didn’t really look at the back, judging it mostly by the cover, which I have talked about before on this blog, here. At 147 pages I thought that it would be a quick read and would be a great taster of Muriel Spark’s writing style as I have never read any of her works before.

The first thing I noticed when reading the book is that it is very much a character study of these dozen or so characters; you learn about their pasts, families, and present piece by piece, building up a clear picture of who these people are. You also know who is going to die at some point and eventually how. My favourite part of ‘Symposium’ was the insertions of paragraphs about the dinner party that these people are attending, the food they are eating, the conversations that take place. It is a good indicator to how these people mingle and get on with each other.

I definitely wouldn’t say that this is a quick read by any means but it is definitely an easy one that builds with interest as it goes along. I would say that at some points the plot seemed to swap and change between times and places very quickly making it a bit difficult to keep up but at no point did I feel overwhelmed by it. I noticed that in some parts, as the story was getting to a touchy or more difficult subject matter, the subject of conversation would change and I really loved how that reflected the politeness of the characters and emphasised how taboo certain subject matters were.

I was unsure throughout this book about the setting with regards to time. It felt very old-fashioned in some ways and yet some of the ideas shown were quite modern. ‘Symposium’ was originally published in 1990 and I really think that it feels like a much older book, almost with a classic feel.

I loved the mystery and the way all of these characters were intertwined, but it became quite slow and dragged a bit towards the end. The plot seemed to divert away from the main story line of the dinner and delved deep into one of the character’s backgrounds. Although this was quite informative with regards to the plot, it began to lose my interest eventually.

I actually really liked the ending and overall enjoyed the book but it’s not one of my favourites. I will definitely be picking up more of Muriel Spark’s work in the future as I loved the writing style and the idea of the story, I just think that I wasn’t in the right mood for this book at the time.

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