The Girls of Slender Means illustrates Spark’s belief that what may seem like trivialities are actually important events on the path to salvation or damnation. Certainly, in 1945 there is not much serious conversation at the May of Teck Club, a hostel in bombed-out London where some forty girls, mostly students and office workers of good background, can be appropriately housed. Spark can easily summarize the subjects of discourse at the club as being love and money, the latter needed to buy clothes and cosmetics in aid of the former. Except for a few such as Jane Wright, who has ambitions in the publishing business, and Joanna Childe, who, after one failed love affair, has decided to devote her life to poetry, the girls’ major amusements are gossip and flirtation. The greatest success at the latter is the beautiful, self-centered Selina Redwood, who collects men of all sorts, including Nicholas Farringdon, an irresolute young man, most recently the author of a book in favor of atheism.
The title that Spark chose for this book is particularly apt. In the first sentence, she points out the obvious meaning: The story is set at a time when everyone in England had limited means. When the girls’ most exciting adventure turns out to be wriggling through a bathroom window to sunbathe on the roof, however, it is clear that a slender bodily structure is indeed the means to satisfaction. Right at the point when one of the girls is stuck in the window,...
(The entire section is 553 words.)