Published by The Folio Society
This is the second Muriel Spark book I have read, the first being The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
This is another quick read, more of a novella than a full blown novel. Spark is known for her efficiency with words, and for such a short book, the characters are wonderfully developed.
The books flits back and forwards in time. The earlier sections being from just after the war, set in the May of Teck club, a boarding house for young women under 30. The later period is some 20 years on when the girls have gone their separate ways.
Superficially it feels like a gentle social comedy. We have a group of girls, the glamorous one, the clever one, the dappy one and so on, bickering, sharing and laughing together. However, there is an undertone of something lurking just in the future which will result in tragedy.
The plot develops through a series of scenes, which are punctuated by lines of poetry recited by Joanna, who teaches elocution. The poetry seems to act almost as music does in a film, filling the reader with the emotions of what is to come next.
If you haven't read any spark before, I might be tempted to start with the Prime of Jean Brodie, which is somewhat more straightforward. The Girls of Slender Means is great, but is somewhat more unusual and less tight in terms of plot. The ending, which is foreshadowed throughout the book is perfect, if not happy.