Review of ‘A Far Cry From Kensington’ by Muriel Spark

I borrowed this book on impulse from the library. I’d read one Muriel Spark novel before, her famous The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I remembered liking but not excessively. So why this one? It’s set in the postwar publishing scene, written in the 1980s looking back on the 50s. Sounded like my kind of thing…

… And it was! I really enjoyed this book. It’s witty, interesting and detailed. The story is narrated by Mrs Hawkins, a war widow in her late twenties. She works for a struggling publisher while boarding in a house of eccentric characters. When one of her fellow boarders begins to be harassed by mysterious letters and phone calls, the confident Mrs Hawkins turns detective. At the same time, she’s forced from one job to the next because she insulted a persistent and obnoxious hack writer, Hector Bartlett, who has friends in high places. And her employer has a weird box which apparently has healing powers.

This novel had a good pace and well thought-out narrative. I was never bored while reading it. I liked the character of Mrs Hawkins and the way she decides to assert herself – looking quite matronly, she’s everyone’s agony aunt and problem solver, but in the course of the story she loses weight, falls in love, chooses her friends and decides not to be Mrs Hawkins any more. Something else I liked was the insight into 1950s society: the publishing world, unmarried motherhood, pseudoscience, the Polish immigrant community and London’s recovery from the war. This edition is by Polygon Books (2017) and is part of the collected novels of Muriel Spark. I’ll definitely read more of hers in the future.

4 thoughts on “Review of ‘A Far Cry From Kensington’ by Muriel Spark”

  1. Something else I liked was the insight into 1950s society: the publishing world, unmarried motherhood, pseudoscience, the Polish immigrant community and London’s recovery from the war. <— This definitely got my attention! Gonna KIV this book. Thanks for sharing NS!

  2. This sounds really interesting!! I’ve never read anything about the post-war period, but this might just be my first one 🙂 Thanks for sharing your review!

    1. What makes the book more interesting is that the author is looking back thirty years at that time period. It sounds like an optimistic time to be around. Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply