Posted on | September 12, 2011 | 9 Comments
Oh, for such a small novella (tautology?), The Driver’s Seat covers so much, with a dark plot, completely mental characters and just bizarreness all around! Lise, a thirty-something year old woman, is stuck in a dull office job for a decade or so, and she’s about to embark on her first vacation. At the very outset, we discover that Lise is completely and utterly nuts. Like flips out in a shop, while looking for a dress to travel in, when the salesperson tells her it’s made from stain-resistant material… so much so that she walks out of the store, as she is affronted by the insinuation that she does not eat properly.
When she finally finds an outfit to wear (“a lemon-yellow top with a skirt patterned in bright V’s of orange, mauve and blue.’ and a coat over the top ‘narrow stripes, red and white with a white collar”) during her travels, the reader is left truly bewildered, by the sheer garishness of it, which she justifies easily.
The colours go together perfectly. People here in the North are ignorant of colours. Conservative; old-fashioned. If only you knew! These colours are a natural blend for me. Absolutely natural.
Okay, so possibly, Lise is on the verge of a breakdown of sorts, but she does seem to have an agenda. She insists she’s meeting her boyfriend at the destination, but one wonders if she knows the man in question, for she does incessantly use the phrase, he’s not my type while interacting with any of the strange men she encounters from the start of her break till… well… her death. Again, early on, Spark lets us know about the fate of her character. Not the who, not the why, just the what.
She will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.
Lise’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as the novella progresses. She lies glibly, steals a car, and just seems to have lost all regard for any semblance of normality. Everything as per her convenience. Everything on her terms. Bizarre, uncomfortable, gripping.
This is the third book by Muriel Spark that I have read, and it couldn’t be more different than the other two. It’s significantly darker, to begin with, and suspenseful. The characters are just – wow – I really hope I never have to interact with people like them! Honestly! And despite it being a mere hundred-odd pages, Spark covers a lot of ground, and the ending just fits perfectly. Almost as though everything makes perfect sense.