Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 17, 2016

Symposium (1990), by Muriel Spark, read by Glen McCready

symposium-001Listening to an audio book by Muriel Spark is a terrific accompaniment to #ChristinaSteadWeek: I bet Stead would have liked Spark’s satirical style…

The title is a droll play on words.  Spark has resurrected the ancient Greek meaning of Symposium as a drinking party or convivial discussion after a banquet while also spoofing the guests’ opinion of themselves as experts discussing some topic.  Bookended by a posh London dinner party where the menu occupies the hosts at length but is actually cooked by hired help, the novella then provides the back story of some very odd guests indeed.  Spark’s penchant for black humour and the macabre is playful and pitiless.  None of these characters are sympathetically handled, though mad Uncle Magnus at least has someone’s best interests at heart, even if his methods lack, a-hem, discretion…

Margaret Damien (nee Murchie), the new bride who met her wealthy husband in the fruit & veg section of Marks and Spencer, has an unfortunate history of being associated with unexplained deaths.  A schoolteacher, and a fellow nun.  She gets tired of the police interviewing her about events she had nothing to do with, and considers that perhaps she should engineer events so that that she has more control over the situation.

Enough already! I’ll ruin the book if I say any more.

The narration is pitch-perfect.  It is easy to overdo posh British accents so that they become snooty caricatures of themselves, but McCready gets it just right.

Author: Muriel Spark
Title: Symposium
Narrated by Glen McCready
Publisher: Isis Audio Books, 2007, first published 1990
ISBN: 9780753127575
Source: Kingston Library


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