The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark

A short and surprising novel. According to the text on the cover of my book “a shocker”. The book has characteristics of a crime novel. In the second chapter the reader gets to know that Lise, the main character will meet with a violent death at the end of the first day of her holidays, but how this comes to happen? The day Lise travels and the day before are filled with a series of events and conversations which in itself could be arbitrary and meaningless, but in this novel may be meaningfull. The reader doesn’t get to know very much about Lise. The end of the story is clear but on the way from the beginning to the end the reader comes across clues and misdirections. The aim of Lise’s trip is vague. She is taking a holiday to rest from her work, that she is very tired we hear from Lise’s co-workers. She does not say so herself. She seems to be looking for a man. Why? Is she looking for a fling or is her mission more sinister? She makes a organised and effective impression on the one hand, but on the other hand she seems to be  emotionally unstable; laughter is easily followed by crying. Several men and an old woman cross her path. None of the men she meets seems to be the one she is looking for. The part the old woman plays in the story is revealed later on. Most things Lise says or does seem contradictory to things she said or did before. Many things she says could have a deeper meaning than the obvious one. Why does she meet the people she meets? Which events are coincidental and which are planned?  It is a surprising and unsettling story. Premonitions of death are plentiful. Clues and misdirections seem to be everywhere in this novel. Lise seems to be occupied with placing misleading traces all of the time. Bill who took the same flight as Lise believes in the power of macrobiotics and leaves a trail of rice from leaking containers. Meanwhile Lise holds on to her citymap.  This compact novel  leaves the reader with questions. Questions about the nature of reality and about motivation of the characters.

September 2023

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