Book Review – Robinson by Muriel Spark


Book Two of the Year of Muriel Spark. I was sent 4 Muriel Spark books by Berlinn as part of a Year of Muriel Spark. I actually read this last year but have only just got round to reviewing it.

Bound for the Azores, a plane crashes onto an isolated island somewhere in the North Atlantic. January Marlow is one of the three survivors – and the only woman. She wakes to find herself being cared for by Miles Mary Robinson, the island’s reclusive owner and bibliophile. Muriel Spark’s second novel is a vivid tale of manipulation, sexual tension and – possibly – murder.

This is one of the 22 novels written by Muriel Spark in her lifetime. All are being published by Polygon in hardback Centenary Editions between November 2017 and September 2018.

This is an odd little book. I enjoyed it more than The Comforters although it seems to get some bad reviews in various places. I guess that setting the book up to be a mystery doesn’t help, as mystery readers will find that it isn’t one that conforms to the tropes of mystery writing.

Obviously it is meant to echo Robinson Crusoe (or perhaps Swiss Family Robinson) and pre-GPS, pre-globalisation it is easier to strand your characters on a remote island and have them await rescue for many months than in the modern day. But again the castaway element, although it provides the lead character some sense of cabin fever also seems to not be the point of the story either.

The development of character, and the relationships between them. Especially the contrast between superstition and Catholocism (Spark was a Catholic convert) is the main driver of the plot. The plucky female alone on an island of men holds her own, and comes out on top generally, which is nice.

There’s lots to like here but I feel that later works will hold up better. Talking of which it’s time to start book 3: Memento Mori


Published by suttope

Pete W Sutton is a writer and editor. His two short story collections – A Tiding of Magpies and The Museum for Forgetting – were shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards in 2017 & 2022 respectively. His novel – Seven Deadly Swords – was published by Grimbold Books. He has edited several short story anthologies and is the editor for the British Fantasy Society Horizons fiction magazine.

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