Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Eligible for FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy mean your satisfaction is guaranteed! Good readable copy. Worn edges and covers and may have small creases. The cover may have wear and if there is a dustjacket, it may have normal wear. There may be light writing or highlighting. All pages are present and item is in good condition.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Finishing School: A Novel Hardcover – September 21, 2004

3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

See all 16 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$0.75 $0.01

Top 20 lists in Books
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A swift, blithe comedy of sexual and creative jealousy plays out on the grounds of a dubious finishing school in Dame Spark's gem of a novel, her 22nd. College Sunrise, founded by would-be novelist Rowland Mahler and his practical wife, Nina Parker, is a mobile institution (currently situated in Lausanne) at which very little of use is taught. Rowland does preside over a popular creative writing class (with five students, it boasts more than half the school's enrollment), while Nina takes care of the office business and dispenses delicious advice in her informal etiquette seminars ("[I]f you, as a U.N. employee, are chased by an elephant stand still and wave a white handkerchief. This confuses the elephant's legs"). Trouble arrives in the form of redheaded, 18-year-old Chris Wiley, who has come to College Sunrise to work on his novel about Mary, Queen of Scots. Chris's authorial insouciance—he is supremely confident of his talents and rather dismissive of historical fact—infuriates Rowland, whose ego was inflated by minor early successes and who has a terrible case of writer's block. Rowland becomes obsessed with the novel and its creator, and their struggle—" 'I could kill him,' thought Rowland. 'But would that be enough?' "—forms the heart of the book, even as other players, sketched briefly but brilliantly (the "tall and lonely" Tilly, princess of an unknown and perhaps fictitious country; the sweet, stupid Mary Foot, who wants to own a "sahramix" [sic] shop) fall in and out of love and beds. Spark, who is 86, writes in a polished, rather old-fashioned tone (references to "punk music," laptops and other things of the modern world surprise), but this is a cool, delightful little book of bad deeds and good manners.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School - Rowland Mahler and his wife, Nina, are directors of College Sunrise, a private school in Switzerland attended by nine free-spirited teens. Its location changes from year to year, the tuition is exorbitant, and the curriculum, anything but mainstream. Chris Wiley has enrolled for the sole purpose of writing a novel and does not attend classes. Others pursue a variety of interests that include drama, creative writing, and Nina's unique version of modern etiquette. Sex and alcohol are not discouraged, and while Nina and Rowland bring in the occasional guest speaker, they teach most of the classes with minimal educational expertise. In fact, the school itself is questionable as it caters to students who, for various reasons, are unable to attend established institutions. Because Chris and Rowland are concurrently writing books, tension between the two pervades the novel, and becomes its primary theme. Nina begins an affair with a neighbor, one of the students becomes pregnant by the gardener, and, at the end of the term, the school's continued existence is precarious. Spark seems to be laughing at 21st-century permissiveness with well-drawn characters and eloquent writing. High school students will enjoy reading about this fly-by-night "finishing" school and its unusual attendees. - Pat Bender, The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385512821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385512824
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,007,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The last decade has been a productive if uneven period for novelist Dame Muriel Spark, whose dynamic career in literature has now spanned over half a century. 'All The Stories of Muriel Spark' was published in 2001, 'The Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark' in 2003, both 'All the Poems of Muriel Spark' and a four-novel Modern Library omnibus were published earlier this year, and an idiosyncratic selection of her older fiction is currently in print. 1996 saw the release of 'Reality and Dreams,' one of Spark's rare outright failures, and 'Aiding and Abetting' debuted in 2000. But 'Aiding and Abetting' was sketchy and insubstantial, and something of a failure as well.

Thus the good news is that 'The Finishing School' (2004), Spark's 22nd novel, is worthy of taking its place on a lower rung among her second tier works (1958's 'Robinson,' 1960's 'The Ballad of Peckham Rye,' 1968's 'The Public Image,' and 1973's 'The Hothouse By the East River,' among others).

Happily, 'The Finishing School' has a brisk tone which most resembles that of 'Territorial Rights' (1979) and the greatly underrated 'Symposium' (1990), and, like those novels, concerns itself largely with life among the wealthy and the privileged. The institution in question is Sunrise College, a mobile school in Switzerland that in any given semester has only a handful of students enrolled. Ironically, Sunrise College never seems entirely credible, and throughout feels exactly like what it is in fact: a convenient and mutable creative device for its author's use.

Nonetheless, 'The Finishing School' is a deft, if slight, meditation on creative frustration, envy, competition, and emotional displacement.
Read more ›
Comment 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Finishing School" is a thread-bare novella--a sketch, really--about jealousy and the creative process. Rowland Mahler and his wife, Nina, operate College Sunrise, a post-secondary school which moves from one European location to another, not merely for a change in ambience but mostly to outrun the school's piling debts. While Nina manages the school, Rowland is supposed to be writing his novel, but he's suffering from an intractable case of writer's block.

To put it more accurately: "Rowland was simply going mad with jealousy about the writing of novels." One of the school's students, the handsome and popular Chris Wiley, is discovered writing his own book--a historical work about Mary, Queen of Scots. Soon enough, Chris's novel has attracted both the attention of several publishers and the murderous envy of Rowland, who whines that Chris is "trying to pass himself off as a creative writer, when all he's doing is exploiting his looks and his youth." And Chris, in turn, discovers that he is unable work on his book without the motivating presence of Rowland's jealousy.

Added to this plot are a few random descriptions of the other students (and their familial backgrounds) and some generally blithe comments about society ("it's hypocrisy that makes the world go round"), etiquette ("if you are offered a plover's egg as a snack...you want your right hand to be free to shake someone else's hand [so] your left hand should hold the plover's egg"), and liberalism in education (Nina obliges when the students want "to be reminded of what an exam was like").

The slightness of Spark's 23nd novel is more than compensated by the sharpness of its observations on creativity and competitiveness. Like other British comedies of manners, "The Finishing School" is slim of plot and of character; instead, it's a work to be savored for its conciseness, its cynicism, and its occasional mean-spiritedness.
Comment 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Rowland Mahler and his wife Nina founded the College Sunrise in Ouchy, Switzerland. They are respectively 29 and 26 and they have nine students. Rowland teaches creative writing and in his spare time he aspires to become a novelist. But then his seventeen year old student Chris Wiley starts writing a novel about Mary Queen of Scots entitled "Who Killed Darnley" and Rowland suffers from writing block because he is jealous of the ease with which Chris's writing progresses. Rowland can't understand why his teenage pupil is able to write like a professional, how he can manage language so wonderfully and with so little experience. Nothing compared with his own dismal efforts at mediocre prose.

But as the reader progresses along the plot, he realises that nothing in Mrs Spark's novel is as it seems. The characters are well drawn, the scenes are often very amusing because they are laced with acute and witty observations about authors, publishers, school life, marital relationships and more generally about present day preoccupations.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition
This novella was Spark's last work of fiction. It is written in a laconic style that takes some getting used to. Also, whenever a question is asked, Spark has the character "saying" rather than "asking" the question. The plot, if any, deals with the repressed homosexual fixation between teacher and student, both of whom want to kill each other, but who rather improbably end up marrying. There is a vague sense of unreality about the whole text. There is not one character in the book worthy of our respect.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews