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The Driver's Seat (New Directions Bibelot) Paperback – May 17, 1994

4.0 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Spark's 1970 novel of a woman gone mad was dubbed "so stark as to be nightmarish" by The New Yorker. The story details the last day of protagonist Lise, who, while on holiday in Europe, is about to be murdered. For all fiction collections.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

The writer of “some of the best sentences in English” (The New Yorker), Muriel Spark (1918–2006) was the author of dozens of novels including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, and The Driver’s Seat. She became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Bibelot
  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Reprint edition (May 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811212718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811212717
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The bleakest of Muriel Spark's twenty-one novels, 1971's 'The Driver's Seat' provides its audience with a short, harrowing ride, one often without apparent course or destination.

Written in uncomfortable second-person present, the reader becomes an immediate and hesitating witness to the last days in the life of Lise, the book's erratic, exacting, and strangely confrontational anti-heroine. 'The Driver's Seat' is, among other things, a piercing indictment of both the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of Western sixties culture and the radical break with traditional that the decade represented.

Spark pulls off a clever literary coup in the opening paragraph of the third chapter, when she casually reveals the novel's catastrophic ending. By defusing the book's forward motion and the reader's expectations of reaching a climax in the routine manner, Spark forces the reader to look away from the narrative to understand the book's theme and meaning.

Lise, 34, is a product of scrubbed clean and prepackaged modern society, and is or has become a kind of tight-lipped clockwork cog blandly caught in the dull hierarchical social and economic machinery of life. Emotionally sterile and spiritually vacant, only the briefest glimpses into the inner workings of Lise's mind are made available.

However, Lise, who habitually erupts into unprovoked barking laughter, has had "years of illness" of the psychological kind, the results of which have left her office coworkers quietly terrified of her presence. Lise is a walking pathology, a brittle death's head effigy who is likely to collapse or collapse a building at any moment should her precarious self regulating control system fail.
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Format: Paperback
I'm surprised to see that there is no review posted for this book. It was a gem of a find for me, one of those books that I found while browsing for nothing in particular, and it sounded interesting at the very least. Since then I have come to enjoy Muriel Spark very much, though for nostalgic reasons this book remains one of my favorites. I have read it time and time again, and it's one of those rare experiences that lingers each time.

The book chronicles the vacation holiday of an unsettled, eccentric woman named Lise who is searching for her "boyfriend" in another city. To say more would be to give away wonderful, dissident chords within the book. I think it's one of the greatest parts of the experience Spark gives her readers- it's all a bit off-key, a bit awkward, a bit like watching a train as it lumbers down the track with the knowing that something bad is going to happen. The book follows none of the orthodoxies of most writing, at least in my mind, because while there is an obvious beginning and end, one gets the impression that much of the implied story began a very long time ago and that the future of Lise might include stalking the streets of this foreign city and its more benign tourists. I left my first reading with more questions than answers, but it was a very good thing within this context. There is nothing in Lise that can be contained very efficiently, including what one might expect of her, and so while the story ends in the shortterm with the insertion of the back of this tiny book, somewhere in the mind it is possible for Lise to continue to wander aimlessly through the imagination and the many doors found there.
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Format: Paperback
There is no writer more despicable than the reviewer who spoils a book by revealing significant plot points.

[Okay, no writer who opines about the arts. Some political commentators come to mind who are surely destined for a special hell.]

But what do you call a novelist who begins the third chapter --- the third chapter --- of her book with this about Lise, the main character:

"She will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man's necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is traveling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14."

Try this: genius.

The Driver's Seat is just l00 pages. It will take most of you about an hour. But in that hour, you are in for an experience even more head-splitting than you'll get from Jim Thompson's aptly named The Killer Inside Me.

Because --- obviously --- this book is about something considerably trickier than who-gets-killed.

So the first brilliance of Muriel Spark's writing is its stunning originality; this is a book that really makes sense only backwards, when you finally have all the information to understand what happened. A close second is the writing. "Surgical" is often used to describe Spark's prose, and in this, her most unsettling novel, you can see why.

In a line here, a line there, we learn that Lise is 34 years old. She lives in the north of Europe, perhaps Sweden.
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