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The Comforters Paperback – April 27, 1978

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (April 27, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140019111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140019117
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,423,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Spark's 1957 first novel caused quite a stir among the critics, who found her a novelist worth watching. Nearly 30 years later, one can say positively that they were right. Her many fans will be happy to see this again.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Brilliantly original and fascinating Evelyn Waugh A master of malice and mayhem Michiko Katutani, NEW YORK TIMES --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Muriel Spark (1918-2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), considered her masterpiece, was made into a stage play, a TV series, and a film. Spark became a Dame of the British Empire in 1993.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Muriel Spark's first novel, THE COMFORTERS, is a genuine classic. The intrustion of the "literary device" is marvelous because it is anything but a gimmick. For one thing, the mysterious metafictional typewriter (from an author composing a novel you might be reading) is inspired by experiences Spark describes in her autobiography. Aural hallucinations contributed to two masterpieces of English prose around this time--Evelyn Waugh's THE ORDEAL OF GILBERT PINFOLD takes a different approach, less cosmic and perhaps more comic. In both cases, however, the voices are central to the novel, and provide a marvelous opportunity for conveying a unique (and, I think, in both cases, -true-) view of our world.
The other undercurrent here is Spark's conversion to Roman Catholicism. Caroline's attitude may not be Spark's, but I hope it is--skewering irritating modern Pharisees inside the Church as gleefully as those outside of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Buzalka on June 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
The Comforters was the debut novel of Prime of Miss Jean Brodie author Muriel Spark and while it's not a masterpiece, one can see why it was regarded as an impressive first book. The story revolves around a young woman named Caroline Rose, who begins hearing a voice, accompanied by a typewriter, narrating her life. This is reminiscent of the 2006 Will Ferrell/Emma Thompson movie Stranger Than Fiction, which also has a character whose life is being narrated by an outside force (I wonder if the makers of that movie knew about or drew on Spark's novel).

Unfortunately, I don't think Spark develops her unusual trope as far as she might (it kind of drops into the background of the narrative) but there are enough other interesting characters and scenes to make up for it. They include Caroline's on-again-off-again boyfriend Laurence and his eccentric Anglo-Catholic family, a would-be gang of jewel thieves led by a septugenarian granny and a bosomy middle-aged woman who may or may not be a witch.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Randall L. Wilson on September 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Some writers are like Meryl Streep - they try on different genres, narratives, and subject matter. Others are like Barbara Stanwyck whose range was limited but deep. Muriel Spark who announced her literary concerns in "The Comforters" and spent the next 21 novels building on the work first introduced here was like the latter.

Muriel threw away realism in "The Comforters" by introducing a typewriting ghost that wrestled with the lead character, Carolyn Rose, for control of the novel. But she throws away realism not for its own sake but because she wanted to explore ideas about faith, betrayal and destiny through fiction. She saw realism as a straight-jacket that forced her to spend energy and words on things that didn't further her interests.

Spark was a recently converted Catholic when she wrote her first novel and she explores faith and free well but not in any conventional way. Instead shows faith as complicated and unknowable but existing all the same. Whether in Caroline's desire for celibacy, the crippled Andrew's cure or the pointless retreat of Sir Edward Manders, faith is complicated by human frailty and selfishness.

There is a cheerfulness to auto accidents, deformities and drownings as to any of the other actions. This too would be a hallmark of Spark's fiction. No need to lay it on thick just because something unpleasant happened.

Finally, her portrayal of a gay character is quite explicit for the mid-fifties. She describes the character - Ernest - as a homosexual and has the main character speak highly of him. Yes, there are stereotypical, effeminate characteristics assigned to Ernest but he isn't demeaned by them just described using them. By bringing his homosexuality out in the open and treating it in the breezy fashion with which she treats everything else, Spark make gay Ernest part of the texture of the novel and this gives him a contemporary feel.
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