Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Takeover was Muriel Spark’s sixteenth novel, following The Abbess of Crewe: A Modern Morality Tale (1974) by two years. Like the earlier novel, The Takeover is concerned with the relationship between truth and lies, materialism and mythology.

Like The Abbess of Crewe, The Takeover is Spark’s response to the decade of the 1970’s. Spark has subtitled the novel “a parable of the pagan seventies,” and the book can be read on one level as an updated version of the myth of Diana of Nemi. Yet the novel also owes much to the American political climate of the 1970’s. Coco de Renault, for example, begins to use “the new crisis-terminology introduced by the current famous American Secretary of State” Henry Kissinger, and in fact the novel’s landscape reflects a mutation in the very nature of reality “not merely to be defined as a collapse of the capitalist system, or a global recession, but . . . such a mutation that what were assets were to be liabilities and no armed guards could be found and fed sufficient to guard those armed guards who failed to protect the properties they guarded.” Maggie’s jewels and furnishings cannot be guarded from theft and forgery, and ultimately her fortune itself becomes a liability.

One of the novel’s central issues is the distinction between ownership and possession. Neither Hubert, who professes to be the spiritual owner, nor Maggie, who has...

(The entire section is 428 words.)