A Far Cry from Kensington [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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A Far Cry from Kensington

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Even the title is witty in this latest of Spark's delightful novels, bearing as it does at least three layers of ambiguity. It is a tale told in a splendidly commonsensical way by Mrs. Hawkins, a buxom young war widow who is a tower of strength in a failing London publishing house during the lean years after WW II. She is surrounded, both at work and in her seedy Kensington boarding house, by those slightly off-center eccentrics the Englishand particularly Sparkdraw to perfection; everything on the surface seems utterly realistic, yet fantasy as rich as anything in Garcia Marquez is only a breath away. Mrs. Hawkins selects a hate object among the literary hangers-on at her firm, and that hatred changes her life. She also becomes involved with a Polish dressmaker with a dark secret, invents a supremely successful method of dieting and almost in spite of herself becomes happy. Spark knows the wonderfully zany world of postwar-London publishing backward, her wit has never been more telling, and any book person is going to gobble this up. A sample, to whet the appetite: ``Publishers, for obvious reasons, attempt to make friends with their authors. Martin York tried to make authors of his friends.'' July
Library Journal
Spark's latest novel is a taut, controlled portrait of the residents of a Kensington boarding house and the members of London's publishing world in 1954. Linking the two settings is Mrs. Hawkins, a solid young widow who becomes a center of normalcy as she solves the novel's clever mystery. Spark balances devastatingly eccentric characters and funny situations with darker elements, even pathos. Her well-constructed novel has no loose ends and few contrived situations. Characterizations and plot details reveal her at her best; comparison with Spark's The Girls of Slender Means and Memento Mori is tempting. Serious yet entertaining fiction; for most libraries. Elizabeth Guiney Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll., Minneapolis
Library Journal
This 1988 novel is told from the perspective of Mrs. Hawkins, who, now living a leisurely existence in Italy, looks back on her days as a young widow employed by an oddball publisher. Typical Spark, the plot soon becomes laced with mystery involving blackmail, suicide, and other dastardly doings. Great fun. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Sunday Times [London]
“A 1950s Kensington of shabby-genteel bedsitters, espresso bars...irradiated with the sudden glows of lyricism she can so beautifully effect.”
Independent
“The divine Spark is shining at her brightest—pure delight.”
Glyph Jockey
The plot arrow is large and sharp and accurate. There's crazies, death, fist-fighting, insults, medical emergencies, injustice ... hoodoo and more.— Stephen Hanulec
Stephen Hanulec - Glyph Jockey
“The plot arrow is large and sharp and accurate. There's crazies, death, fist-fighting, insults, medical emergencies, injustice ... hoodoo and more.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811220149
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 12/15/2012
  • Series: New Directions Classic
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 592,642
  • File size: 426 KB

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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(0)

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(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I can't wait to read more of her work

    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/

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  • Posted August 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Visit with Mrs. Hawkins

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Where was the Editor?

    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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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