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A Far Cry from Kensington
A Far Cry from Kensington | Muriel Spark
19 posts | 21 read | 21 to read
The fraying fringes of 1950s literary London Rich and slim, the celebrated author Nancy Hawkins takes us in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London, where she spends her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher (of very good books) and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house. Everywhere Mrs. Hawkins finds evil: with aplomb, however, she confidently sets about putting things to order, to terrible effect.
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I always find planning to read from my own TBR stacks somehow a little imperfect, but that‘s what I did here.

As a recreation of 1954/55 South Kensington and London‘s publishing world, this is something of a masterpiece. I‘m clueless about South Kensington, but it wasn‘t the ritzy place in the 1950‘s that it is today. The short book is little slow in its plot line. But it vividly recreates a textured populated world and has a dark charm.

Cuilin I just finished a rooming house book set in London, 1938, called “London belongs to me” the characters are almost Dickensian. This looks good so of course I stacked it. 2mo
Ruthiella My favorite Spark so far (and only from three books read). I thought it was charming and funny. 2mo
Graywacke @Cuilin that sounds good too! So far I would recommend Spark in general. Hope you enjoy this. It‘s less than 200 pages. 2mo
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Graywacke @Ruthiella yes, i felt that to, charming and funny. I laughed out loud a few times. 🙂 This is only my 3rd by Spark. It‘s less ambitious than Memento Mori or The Prime of Jean Brodie, but much more interior than those books. I loved how she captures these really interesting internal self-reflections of Nancy Hawkins, including the opening paragraph. 2mo
Aimeesue I'm fairly sure this was the book that gave me the phrase "brain wave!" Having a brain FREEZE about it at the moment, though. ? 2mo
Suet624 There are some authors I always want to read when reminded of them and then I forget all about them. That would be the case with this author. Hopefully I‘ll walk down a library aisle and Spark will jump out at me. 2mo
Graywacke @Suet624 Spark is terrific. Smart and fun and she likes to mess with her readers. She‘s a little hard to find in physical book stores/places. (But not hard to find online) 2mo
Suet624 @Graywacke Great! I'll start snooping around online. 2mo
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We‘re working very hard on my unexpected day off. Started a new book today, attacking that TBR thingy.

dabbe Want to kiss that sweet puppy face! ❣️🐾❣️ Enjoy your day off! 😊 2mo
AllDebooks Awww I love your beautiful dog ❤️🐕 ❤️ 2mo
batsy Awww! 😍 I haven't read that one but I'm guessing Muriel Spark can only be a treat. 2mo
Graywacke @batsy Spark is terrific. It‘s an interesting switch, from manly Richard Wright with his plot tensions to gentle sophisticated nuance in Spark. 2mo
57 likes4 comments
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More photos from Otautahi Christchurch - botanical gardens… daffodils are out!
This book was a delight. My 2nd Spark novel; this one more humorous than The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie but it still has a dark undercurrent & she still skewers a few personality types with sharp descriptions. It also reminded me of Excellent Women & Lolly Willowes in that I love a woman who, despite appearances, refuses to stay in the box she‘s expected to fit in!

LeahBergen I must get to this soon! I also liked her Memento Mori. 👍 6mo
CarolynM This was the first Spark I read. She is more biting than Pym, I think😆 6mo
Cathythoughts Lovely pictures and review ♥️♥️♥️ 6mo
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Centique @LeahBergen ooh I need to get that one! 6mo
Centique @CarolynM that is a very good description of her style, totally agree! 6mo
BarbaraBB Beautiful pics! Like @LeahBergen I too enjoyed Memento Mori a lot and also 6mo
batsy So intrigued by the Lolly Willowes and Excellent Women comparisons! I've only read one Spark and loved it; I really need to crack on with the rest. 6mo
Suet624 Lovely photos! 6mo
Ruthiella I‘ve only read three books from Spark, but so far this is my favorite. “Pisseur de copie!” 😆 6mo
Centique @BarbaraBB some more I need to get to! 6mo
Centique @batsy I‘d love to hear what you think of this one when you get there. I loved the main character so much 😍 6mo
Centique @Suet624 thank you! 😘 6mo
Centique @Ruthiella that can be our catch cry “pisseur de copie!” 😂 6mo
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A lovely spot to read for an hour in the Spring sunshine - and a lovely book to read. This is Victoria Square in Otautahi, Christchurch.

Soubhiville Wow! Beautiful. 6mo
LeahBergen So pretty! 6mo
Jeg N Z is such a beautiful place. Another visit would be great. Maybe one day. 6mo
Centique @Jeg I hope you get to visit us again soon 💕 6mo
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I couldn't decide between these three stellar novels that start with the #LetterF. ?
A Far Cry from Kensington - a sharp funny novel about publishing & publishers (and more!)
The Fire-Dwellers - another Laurence, this time contemplating the realities of "happily ever after."
Fleishman is in Trouble - a contemporary look at marriage (and divorce) in Manhattan
Thanks for the tag @robinb

Graywacke I have a copy of the Spark right next to me. Hopefully I will read it soon. 8mo
batsy Fire Dwellers ❤️ 8mo
robinb 🤗 Just stacked a couple of these! Thanks! 8mo
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More excellent advice from Mrs. Hawkins. 😁

Graywacke Noting! 11mo
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This book is a hoot. Mrs.Hawkins is fount of good advice. (Although truth be told, not sure a cat has ever helped me write. 😸)

Ruthiella My cats often actively disrupt my working from home activities! 11mo
Vansa Love this book. It's so wickedly funny 11mo
GingerAntics That is, until the cat lays on the paperwork, book, or project you‘re contemplating. 🤣😂🤣 11mo
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merelybookish @Ruthiella @GingerAntics So true! They distract more than they inspire. 11mo
merelybookish @Vansa Absolutely! 11mo
GingerAntics @merelybookish but you gotta love them anyway 11mo
Leftcoastzen 👏😻 11mo
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Carrying on with more Muriel Spark!
In other news, feeling very relieved that Wallace the cat came home after being outside all day. We were worried!

Ruthiella Glad to hear Wallace is OK! Silly kitty. 🙀 I‘ve only read three Sparks titles but this is my favorite. It has a definite Barbara Pym flavor to it. Remember “Pisseur de Copie”, it is a funny rallying cry in the book. 😂 (edited) 11mo
CarolynM This was the first Muriel Spark I read. I hadn't thought of the Pym comparison, but I think I get what you mean @Ruthiella 11mo
CarolynM And I'm very glad to hear Wallace is home safe 😸 11mo
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merelybookish @Ruthiella @CarolynM He's my daughter's cat and she was pretty distraught. He was fine, of course. 😸 And I like the Pym comparison! 11mo
kspenmoll So happy your daughter‘s cat returned home! 11mo
GingerAntics Oh no! I remember one of our cats staying out overnight once. We thought he was gone when he didn‘t come home for bed. Shortly before sun down on the second day he came trotting up to the door, ready for dinner. We were so relieved. It‘s like they all have to do something crazy just once to give us a near heart attack, then come back like nothing happened. lol I‘m so glad Wallace came home. 11mo
Graywacke Cats. Grrr. Glad he‘s ok. I‘m hoping to read this book this year (in September in my original plan) 11mo
LeahBergen Eek! That‘s so scary. 🐱 11mo
batsy So glad Wallace is back safe! This is why I think I can't handle having a cat—it's clear that lots of cats need the freedom to roam, but I'd be freaking out every minute I don't see them around 😥 11mo
youneverarrived I‘ve just started my first by Spark 11mo
merelybookish @kspenmoll @LeahBergen We very are relieved! 😅 11mo
merelybookish @GingerAntics They do like to give the occasional heart attack! Lol. 11mo
merelybookish @Graywacke Im on a bit of Spark binge and this one seems to be a favourite. And yes, cats. 🙄 11mo
merelybookish @batsy We don't worry at all about our other cat but Wallace hasn't ever gone very far and is....maybe not the brightest cat? 😬🤣 So we had no faith in his ability to wander and find his way home. Although to his credit, he proved us wrong. 11mo
merelybookish @youneverarrived I havent read that one! Will be interested to hear what you think. This is my 3rd Spark. Love Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori 11mo
GingerAntics @merelybookish they do. I guess they think they‘re keeping us on our toes. 11mo
sarahbarnes I‘ve still never read her! And I‘m so glad Walllace returned. ❤️ 11mo
merelybookish @sarahbarnes It's definitely worth reading Prime of Miss Jean Brodie! And yes, Susie was beside herself. 11mo
Sparklemn @merelybookish I love the name Wallace for a cat. Is there a story behind it? 11mo
merelybookish @Sparklemn It's my daughter's cat and she came up with the name. I'm not sure where she got it. The other contender was Dracula so I was relieved when she chose Wallace. 😁 11mo
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'Piseur de copie' is the insult that nancy Hawkins,editor throws at hector bartlett budding essayist+ their feud is at the centre of this novel which highlights, for me, the joy of reading muriel spark. The picture of 1950's post war London is so well drawn and the characters are comic and sad in equal measure. She captures so well loneliness, but also the joy of interaction of people with a dark humour that I love. A miss brodie reread is due.

LeahBergen Great review! I‘m planning on reading some more Spark in the New Year. 😊 2y
CarolynM Loved this one 2y
Cathythoughts Excellent review & picture ! 2y
Cathythoughts Stacked 👍🏻 2y
Centique Stacked for me too! What a wonderful review. 😍 2y
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I‘m giving this a pick, even though I wasn‘t really that interested in the story itself. However, I was interested in Mrs. Hawkins, her musings and reflections, her honesty and the wry, sarcastic tone of the book. I‘ll definitely read more books by Muriel Spark 🙌

BarbaraBB I don‘t know this one but I have read some Muriel Sparks that I liked a lot! 4y
EadieB I read A Driver's Seat - Here's my review:
This is a short, brilliant book which is a little over 100 pages but packs a punch. In the beginning the author tells you how the book ends yet it held my attention until the last page as I followed along to see how the author accomplishes her task. This was my first Muriel Spark book but it won't be my last. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a creepy, chilling tale of evil.
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#YouNeverCanTell when it is the right time to start a book. I started this 4 months ago, read 20 pages, was bored to tears and sure I would hate it. So I put it down, and haven‘t been motivated to pick it up again. That is‘ until yesterday, where I read 120 pages in the blink of an eye, and enjoyed every second of it! Perfect example that every book has its time to be read 👌


Kate.Braithwaite So very true!! 4y
TrishB Agreed 👍🏻 4y
RealLifeReading Definitely! Also cute cover! 4y
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Tamra Truth! 4y
aeeklund I love how this happens. It‘s one of my favorite things about books! 4y
KarenUK Ooh, love that cover.... and enjoyed this one ... hope you continue to 👍💕 4y
Cinfhen I found this to be so true!!! 4y
rohit-sawant So true! 4y
LeahBergen It‘s so true, isn‘t it?? 4y
Amandajoy I need to remember this and not be afraid to put down a book. 4y
Centique I have to remind myself of that and give books a second try. I'm in love with this cover though! 4y
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Coming at the end of a Spark binge (Girls of Slender Means, Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori) it‘s striking how different this one is. It‘s darker (although that shouldn‘t be surprising) than the bubbly back cover would suggest.

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Just starting but I‘m struck by how exactly the description of Molly‘s house reminds me of the house I used to stay in in Acton in my researching days.

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My very modest #bookhaul after my day spent on a used-book-crawl 👌 I couldn‘t pass up the VMC designer classic, and I have wanted to read Station Eleven for such a long time!

I even found a lot of #FolioSociety editions of Dickens‘ novels, but they were too expensive for me at the moment. But September and payday isn‘t that far away. Or, at least I try to tell myself that 😄😄

Cinfhen Glad u had fun and Station Eleven is sooooo good 5y
KatieanneF Station Eleven is BRILLIANT!! Enjoy!! 5y
wanderinglynn I too loved Station Eleven. Happy reading! 😀 📖 5y
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RebelReader I loved Station Eleven! Enjoy! 5y
LeahBergen I love the Spark edition! 👍🏻 5y
LikelyLibrarian Station eleven is fabulous!! 5y
Verity I love the vmc hardbacks. I have a little shelf of them! 5y
readordierachel Station Eleven is a favorite of mine, and that edition is gorgeous! 5y
Billypar I have Station Eleven on my tbr shelf - no current plans for when to pick it up, but all this praise is making me think I should push it up in priority! 5y
Aimeesue Oooh, pretty Spark! 5y
emilyhaldi Great choices!!!! 5y
Kalalalatja @Cinfhen @KatieanneF @wanderinglynn @RebelReader @LikelyLibrarian @ReadOrDieRachel you all have me itching to pick up Station Eleven! 👏 @LeahBergen @Verity @Aimeesue I just couldn‘t leave it all alone on the shelf 😄 @Billypar I‘m definitely thinking so, too! @emilyhaldi thanks! 5y
ephemeralwaltz Lovely!! 5y
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Kitty with my Kindle! I love the novels of Muriel Spark. This is one of her best ones - sharp, smart, and honest. I enjoyed spending time with Mrs. Hawkins and following her adventures in post-war publishing. Those adventures are rivaled only by her involvement in the lives of her neighbors. A short and bittersweet read.

tammysue 😻 5y
Bookzombie 💕🐱 5y
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HAD to share this podcast episode with my all my podcast loving Litsy friends... Anyone who is a fan of tv show ‘Qi‘ may love it too..... Tuesday‘s episode of A Good Read (under the BBC Books and Authors podcast title) is so fun! There is a delightful discussion of the tagged book, picked by host Harriet and discussed with so much joy with Stephen Fry and Alan Davies... Can‘t wait to read it now!

LauraBeth Oohh - thanks! I‘ll listen tonight. 😀 I was just listening to the Popcast because they dedicated an entire episode to books: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-popcast-with-knox-and-jamie/id712316884?... 5y
Trav Do you mean QI? Or is there another television show by a similar name? 5y
KarenUK @trav yep Qi! 5y
Trav @KarenUK gosh I love that show! I'll definitely have to check out the podcast then. 5y
CarolynM It's a great book. Enjoy! I look forward to hearing what you think about it. (edited) 5y
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#Londoncalling #rockinmay
I found a few London books. One, crash, brilliant but very shocking, end of the affair i bought to reread, far cry from Kensington is another purchase to reread, and of course one of my favourite books tinker tailor.

Cinfhen Niiiice!!! Lots of London ❤️today! Soooo many good books 6y
LeahBergen I just recently bought the Greene and the Spark. 👍🏼 6y
TobeyTheScavengerMonk Empire of the Sun is the only Ballard I've read. I need to remedy that. 6y
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Ok I know I'm a day late on collections, but I'm also super in love with my Muriel Spark collection. I'm only missing a few titles! ❤️

Liberty 🤘🏻🤘🏻 7y
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