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Alphabet Library continues – B is for Muriel Spark’s The Bachelors

The Bachelors by Muriel SparkThe second Alphabet Library column from Tim Martin at the Daily Telegraph celebrates The Bachelors by Muriel Spark. For a horrible moment as I wrote The Bachelors, I remembered the Dublin pop group The Bachelors, but thankfully Tim’s essay is all about literature’s brightest Spark, as in Muriel.

The Bachelors appeared in 1960, and despite generous praise from Evelyn Waugh as “the cleverest and most elegant” of Spark’s novels, was swiftly overshadowed by The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie the following year. Reading it today is an uncomfortable experience, and not just because its barbed treatment of failed-to-launch male adults has acquired new fangs in the era of the boomerang twentysomething. Although the book takes for its theme another of the quasi-cults around which so many of Spark’s novels orbit, its approach proves much more worrying and anarchic than its downbeat setting and threadbare plot might promise.

What interests me most about this novel is that it debuted at the start of the 1960s. So much is written about the permissive nature of that decade but it was not like that for everyone, especially with the influence of the Church(es) bearing down on many people. The Bachelors, as Tim points out, is a juicy satire. Spark, who died in 2006, wrote more than 20 novels and The Bachelors was her fifth. You really can’t go wrong with a Muriel Spark book.

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