Far Cry from Kensingtonby Muriel Spark
Set on the crazier fringes of 1950s literary London, A Far Cry from Kensington is a delight, hilariously portraying love, fraud, death, evil, and transformation. Mrs. Hawkins, the majestic narrator of A Far Cry from Kensington, takes us well in hand, and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. There, as a fat and much admired young war widow, she spent 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. At work and at home Mrs. Hawkins soon uncovered evil: shady literary doings and a deadly enemy; anonymous letters, blackmail, and suicide. With aplomb, however, Mrs. Hawkins confidently set about putting things to order, little imagining the mayhem which would ensue. Now decades older, thin, successful, and delighted with life in Italy -- quite a far cry from Kensington -- Mrs. Hawkins looks back to all those dark doings, and recounts how her own life changed forever. She still, however, loves to give advice: "It's easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half....I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book."
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Meet 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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Mrs Hawkins is an overweight, young widow living in 1950's London. She lives in a rooming house with a variety of characters, including Wanda, a Polish seamstress with a secret. Mrs Hawkins works in a publishing firm and is persistently approached by Hector Bartlett, who wants her to assist him with getting his book published. Mrs Hawkins considers him a hack writer and insults him by calling him a 'pisseur de copie' a urinator of journalistic copy. She makes an enemy of not only him, but his benefactress, the author, Emma Loy. Emma gets Mrs Hawkins fired from her publishing firm, but just before it goes bankrupt due to the fraudulent activities of her former boss. Mrs Hawkins then gets another job at a more prestigious publishing firm of Mackintosh and Tooley. She is surprised to be hired over more qualified applicants until eventually she notices that all of their employees seem to have some sort of deformities, hers is that she is obese. This leads her to immediately go on a diet. In the meantime, her neighbor Wanda has received a letter from someone threatening to turn her in for tax evasion, and then gets phone calls with other threats. Mrs Hawkins is convinced that Wanda knows who is behind this, but has more things on her mind. She know longer wants to be Mrs Hawkins, but Nancy, a young woman with a new lover. But she can't shake the irritating presence of her nemesis, Hector. This book was short but delightful, filled with eccentric characters. I can't believe this is the first Muriel Sparks book I have ever read. I love her dry, British wit. Sir Alec's utterance and subsequent words of praise were like the cry of a bird in distress, far away across a darkening lake. I had a sense he was offering things abominable to me, like decaffeinated coffee or coitus interuptus... It is hard to categorize this novel; part mystery, drama, humor, amusing life observations. I am definitely going to read more books by this highly respected author. my rating 4/5 http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/
Muriel Spark gives us an outstand Character study of Mrs. Hawkins and her neighbors in A Far Cry from Kensington. I felt like I was there, sitting across from Mrs. Hawkins . . . strolling down the road with Mrs. Hawkins as she tells me her story of the life and times as Mrs. Hawkins in Kensington. Every character comes to life. You can hear the voices and pictures the features of each character. And their life experiences and times make this book a total joy to read. You hate to see it end, and having to say "Good Bye, until next time!" to Mrs. Hawkins.
I had to return this book to the store.  Besides having missing pages, which made following the story very hard, there were misspelled words, poor grammer, and just not a very interesting story.