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The Girls of Slender Means Audiobook, by Muriel Spark Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Muriel Spark Narrator: Wanda McCaddon Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2008 ISBN: 9781481544917
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,251 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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“Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions…” Thus begins Muriel Spark’s tragic and rapier-witted portrait of a London ladies’ hostel just emerging from the shadow of World War II. Like the May of Teck Club building itself—“three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit”—its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal, practicing elocution and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. But the novel’s harrowing ending reveals that the girls’ giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragically painful war wounds.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In a day when so many writers seem to write so much alike, it is a delight to discover one who writes like no one except herself. Muriel Spark, an aloof, sharp-eyed Scotswoman, is such a writer, and her most noticeable characteristics are, of course, her wit, her absolute pitch in dialogue, her economy of style and her sedulous avoidance of sentiment. These might add up to dryness, but in Miss Spark’s work, they do not. Her very skirting of the sensibilities is a sign of a how fully aware of them she is, as she proved especially in her unerring picture of the old in Memento Mori and as she now proves again in this story about the young, The Girls of Slender Means...those who seek new dimensions in their reading will find this to be Miss Spark’s most interesting piece of work.”

    New York Times

  • “Muriel Spark’s novels linger in the mind as brilliant shards, decisive as a smashed glass is decisive.”

    John Updike, New Yorker

  • “Spark, as usual, has perfectly plotted and peopled this giddy world of postwar delirium and girls’ dormitory life.”

    Library Journal

  • “Muriel Spark’s gift for characters and dialogue make this little book both satirical and compassionate in its vision…Entertaining and illuminating reading.”

    Sonja Larson, 500 Great Books by Women

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelley | 2/7/2014

    " This was a really interesting book that I found myself thinking about for days after finishing it. There's a lot of quotes in here (poetry, bible, etc) that I think would have added to the story if I'd known context and such, although they didn't detract from the story at all. The flips between present (60s) and past ('45) weren't as clear as in Miss Brodie, but overall, it was really well done, the characters were engaging and layered and I enjoyed it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adina | 11/6/2013

    " Strange case of recognizing a good story but not enjoying it properly - the fragmentation of the novella did not go well with the fact that I mostly read it in 10-minutes sessions. Have not read much of Muriel Spark before this one, but I've remembered the mixture of cruelty and lightness. Liked the lightheaded way in which insight and pain make their way into what begins as a cutesy story about young women living by themselves and exchanging pretty dresses, disliked the superficiality with which Spark uses her characters' poverty. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bill | 11/3/2013

    " I sincerely don't understand why I love British television so damned much but not so much their authors. Some kind of cognitive defect on my part, I guess. This book is supposed to be tragicomic genius. I only found it all right. Guess I need therapy, medication, surgery, or something. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Emily | 10/23/2013

    " I must be missing something crucial (perhaps back at the beginning?) because this book completely confused me. It was an interesting read, but I could never figure out where it was going, and the end made a left turn seemingly out of nowhere and fell off a cliff. I would love to have someone explain it to me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 10/14/2013

    " Entertaining post-WWII novel about young women living in a club in London in genteel poverty. Spark's deft characterizations and the many humorous moments are enjoyable, but given the brevity of the book and the many characters, I didn't feel emotionally invested in the story or its inhabitants. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hannah | 9/19/2013

    " I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I like Spark's writing style a lot, and the way she weaves the pasts, presents and futures of so many characters together under one roof. In that way it reminded me of Brideshead Revisited, with so many characters orbiting around a central point, which was the Brideshead Estate. For Spark's characters it is the May of Teck club, a hostel almost never referred to as such by its many residents. I love the way Spark uses the club as a jumping off point into these women's lives and their struggles to find their way during such a period of turmoil in the world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beverly | 9/18/2013

    " reading for a new book club...i feel like the junior literary illiterate member...hope i don't disappoint. spark starts the story as if it's a fairytale. you know immediately you're in good hands... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mimi | 8/26/2013

    " This is a brilliant book! Love love love Muriel Spark. Also read Prime of Miss Jean Brody. Want to read more Spark. Suggestions anyone? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wendy | 7/30/2013

    " This is the first Muriel Spark novel I have read. Rather liked her British bluntness as well as what felt like the true portrayal of difficult times and dislocation in London just after the war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anna | 7/17/2013

    " A friend who had read most of them said this is the best Muriel Spark. It certainly is brilliant. The sharply drawn characters are so real, even sixty years on, that you feel you can touch them. The wit is clever and quirky. A great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 7/8/2013

    " A wonderful short novel by a master. Highly recommended. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rita | 1/1/2013

    " This is one of those books I really want to forget I spent time reading.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tommy | 10/4/2012

    " I learned that "Poise is perfect balance, an equanimity of body and mind, complete composure whatever the social scene. Elegant dress, immaculate grooming, and perfect deportment all contribute to the attainment of self-confidence." "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ammon | 9/20/2012

    " Loved this particular penguin editon. Great dated cover. The contents, of course, were where it was at. Completely economical and beautiful as a result. Plenty of excitement, too, in 1945 London when all the nice people were poor. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erik | 3/15/2012

    " Boy I love this book. It starts out as one of those charming British tales about life during the war and ends with the most astonishing murder I've ever read in fiction. The murder left me horrified and speechless. Spark was such a taut, elegant writer. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 John | 8/30/2011

    " I like Spark, but not really this one. I'm not all that into historical fiction, and didn't care for any of the characters, nor the revolving way in which they were presented. For hardcore Sparks fans only. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 pri | 6/13/2011

    " quick read about a group of young women, right at the end of the war, live in a boarding house for girls of 'slender means'. rations, love interests, poetry, a beautiful dress shared amongst them, and a calamity. tightly written, witty, but also full characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melusina | 3/22/2010

    " 3 1/2 would be a better grading. Not entirely bad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becca | 9/29/2009

    " A touching, brilliantly written little novella of the girls living at the May of Teck club (for women under thirty, of slender means) in the summer of 1945 and the lovers, clothing coupons - and one very lovely Schiaparelli dress - and experiences they share. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stven | 6/11/2009

    " Twenty years ago I was working in downtown Atlanta and spent a lot of my lunch hours across the street in the public library. Muriel Spark was one of the authors I discovered there, and I read a dozen or so of her books. This is one that made an impression on me. "

About the Author

Muriel Spark (1918–2006) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was the author of over twenty novels, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as well as critical biographies, radio plays, children’s books, poetry, and short-story collections. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1993 and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1996.

About the Narrator

Wanda McCaddon (a.k.a. Nadia May or Donada Peters) has narrated well over six hundred titles for major audiobook publishers, has earned numerous Earphones Awards, and was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine.