The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark is an author that I return to time and time again because I enjoy her dark humour and the incisive, often cruel way that she dissects human behaviour. I wouldn’t say that I have loved every Spark novel I have read (The Finishing School, for example left me a little cold) but I am always fascinated by the characters that she creates, and with equal relish, usually, pulls apart.

The Bachelors has taken me a little while to review for this reason. I didn’t love it, but I was fascinated by the characters and was intrigued to see what would happen to them all.

The setting is London, the subjects,  single men – some cruel, some cunning, all somehow lacking, and in their way slightly pathetic. There is Ronald Bridges, probably the most likeable of the characters in the book. He is an epileptic who has tried and failed to control his seizures, and has simply learned to accept that they happen, ensuring that he is rarely in public when they happen. Matthew Finch, blessed with beautiful black curly hair, has a weakness for girls but ‘a great conscience about sex’, and eats raw onions in a bid to repel any female admirers. Then there is Patrick Seton, a very dubious medium who is being taken to court for fraud and is considering bumping off his pregnant girlfriend, yet still seems to manage to pull the wool over people’s eyes. A rather cutting portrait of the London bachelor, and the women in the novel don’t get off lightly either, depicted as wimps, neurotic or permanently in denial.

I liked the character of Ronald, who was such a stoic. I also thought Patrick was a brilliant villain and wished that he was even more central to the story line or rather that there was more of a focus on him. There were some poignant moments between particular characters and I really felt as if I was the omniscient being, watching people interacting amongst their rather strange and disjointed social circles. At times, however I just found myself frustrated at trying to keep track of all the different people in the book and found myself wondering what was going on!

The Bachelors is a witty novel, but perhaps a little too smug in parts and could have done with a few of the less interesting characters being removed completely in my opinion! If I’m being a little harsh, it’s only because I have come to expect so much of Muriel Spark…

My rating:

6 out of 10

8 responses to “The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark

  1. I just finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and I hate to say I was not a fan. Because of that, I am unsure of whether or not I will venture further with Spark.

    • Funnily, SImon of Savidge Reads didn’t love TPOMJB either so maybe it’s worth trying a different one. Perhaps The Girls of Slender Means, The Driving Seat or Momento Mori…?

  2. I have heard so much of Spark that I did read a couple of her books and was not greatly impressed. That said, I will still continue to read the rest since so many readers love her books. There must be something I am missing.

    • I think Spark is a bit of a love her or hate her type, although it’s worth reading more as I’m even quite fussy about her different books. But I don’t think you should ever feel as if you have to try too hard with an author. Maybe she’s just not for you!

  3. I have a very nice hard copy of this book in my Muriel Spark stack, but I so much prefer this vintage Penguin of yours. What a great cover. Haven’t read this one yet.

  4. Smug was possibly the word I would have used for Loitering With Intent when I read it if I had thought of it. I like Dark Spark, am much less keen on Smug Spark. Mind you its only smugness because she so dastardly intelligent!

  5. One of the things I love about Spark is that many of her characters are unlikeable – unlikeable characters can give an extra dimension to an ordinary story. I haven’t read The Bachelors yet, mind 🙂

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