Title: The Finishing School
Author: Muriel Spark
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 181
This book was weird, but I liked it. It had the kind of unlikable characters that make you revel in their misfortune, and Muriel Spark has a very distinct and deadpan writing style which I enjoy. I’m also an aspiring writer, so I got a kick out of all the references to the creative process and how people ‘should’ write a novel. The titular finishing school is run by a struggling writer with an enormous ego and his self-absorbed wife.
There is no love between them, and the husband is becoming dangerously obsessed with a young male student for whom novel-writing seems to come as easily as breathing. The more people act like young Chris is some kind of wunderkind, the more rabidly jealous the headmaster Rowland becomes, leading to a series of unforeseen consequences.
It becomes clear early on that if Rowland spend one half of the time he spends obsessing over Chris writing, he might actually get somewhere in life. Like most people who are passionate about writing, I take my fictional creations very seriously and I’m also not above some occasional jealousy of writers who are successful of their craft (especially when they don’t seem to deserve it.)
That was part of what I liked about this book, that it took issues writers (especially the awful variety who brand themselves ‘intellectuals’) have on a regular basis and turns the drama up to 100. The Finishing School is off-kilter, a bit cynical, but I enjoyed it in all it’s weirdness and I’m looking forward to reading more of Muriel Spark’s novels.