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The Finishing School
by Muriel Spark

Category: Fiction / Literary
181 pages; ISBN: 0385512821

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman


Reviewed by
Lily Azerad-Goldman, artist and writer in Montreal

Muriel SPARK has added yet another star to her long list of novels with The Finishing School. This 23rd novel or novella as it is only 181 pages long, confirms her secure status among British novelists.
Written in a rapid, economical style, it is fast paced and very comical at times.

As in her well known novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the primary action of the novel takes place in a school setting, College Sunrise, a co-ed “comme il faut” finishing school for rich kids in Lausanne, Switzerland. The plot focuses mainly on Rowland Mahler, a writer and creative writing teacher and his love/hate relationship with Chris Wiley, a precocious successful writer. Rowland suffers from writer’s block and is extremely jealous of Chris Wiley’s success. Nina, Rowland’s wife, and the director of the school, progressively detaches herself from Rowland and falls into the arms of their neighbor, Israel Brown.
At the end of the school year, the group dynamics is disintegrated and abruptly terminates in the concluding chapter.

Muriel Spark using quick stokes sketches the rest of the cast of College Sunrise.
Perhaps, a reflection of the fact that the main stay of the students at the school is of a very short duration.

The most commendable part of the novel is the ability of the author to let us have a peek at the creative writing process. She has a profound understanding of class dynamics, sexual tension and professional jealousy.

In short, The Finishing School is a compact but effective criticism of “the privileged” class of society with their laisser-faire attitude. However, unlike The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Finishing School is far too sketchy and does not give us enough time to digest the characters.


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