Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Stories of Muriel Spark contains twenty-seven short stories written over a thirty-year period. Six original stories are included in this volume, while the remainder had appeared in earlier collections. The settings are modern times, usually post-World War II, in various locations, such as England, Scotland, and Africa. Although Muriel Spark’s use of point of view is varied, nineteen of the stories are first-person narratives. Her focus is the observation of human behavior, particularly of female characters. The themes of the stories can be divided into four subject groups: supernatural stories, stories about corruption and evil, stories exposing foolishness and hypocrisy, and stories featuring “lost souls.”

The tales containing supernatural elements often feature women protagonists who encounter strange phenomena, as does the title character in “Miss Pinkerton’s Apocalypse” when a flying Spode china saucer sweeps through her antique shop. In “The Executor,” Susan Kyle is troubled by the spirit of her late uncle until she discloses the missing pages of his manuscript and gives up her notion of writing the last chapter of his unfinished novel to publish as her own instead. Spark is at her best in “The Portobello Road,” which is narrated by a ghost named Needle, who has been murdered by her friend George and comes back to pay him a visit.

Spark’s stories of corruption and evil often feature controlling women who seek power. “The Pawnbroker’s Wife” and “The Curtain Blown by the...

(The entire section is 632 words.)