I have been looking forward to Muriel Spark Week hosted by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Harriet from Harriet Devine’s Blog. I liked both of the Muriel Spark novels I’ve read so far, The Girls of Slender Means and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It was about time to read another one. Territorial Rights had been on my piles for a while and that’s why I decided to read it.
Sadly this book did not work for me and if it hadn’t been for Muriel Spark Week – and if I was not a notorious book-finisher – this would have been a DNF for me. But first things first.
Territorial Right is set in Venice and as a Venice novel it is remarkably well done. I was there, I saw the streets, the canals, the piazzas, the palazzi, the churches, the street cafés and the back gardens. I enjoyed the descriptions a lot.
Now take this setting and throw in a motley crew of people, all magically coming to Venice at the same time. They know each other either from Paris, England or Bulgaria. They do not only know each other but they are all connected and even fleeing from each other only to bump into each other in Venice. Hmmmm. Add a dark secret that is hidden by two elderly women owning one of the local pensions, murmur of political machinations, drug dealers, an unfaithful husband, an elderly woman wo likes young men, a Bulgarian artist in exile who jumps in the canal because she finds out she has been in bed with a Jew, a rich art dealer who is in love with a young man who disappears while his father abandons his lover for his sons ex-lover…
All is resolved in the end. Nothing was as it seemd at first. We find out what was hidden in the garden and get to know the past and the future of each character. Does it sound quirky? It sure was.
I think there is a lot going on in this novel that mirrors unresolved conflicts in Spark’s life and I’m sure from what little I have read after finishing the book that it would be interesting to analyze it in the light of this. Little incidents like the girl jumping into the canal to clean herself after having had sex with a Jew are meaningful when you know Muriel Spark had a falling out with her son because he was an Orthodox Jew and she a devout Catholic (as read on Wikipedia).
Since this is a very well written book, I can see how it could appeal to someone else. It’s a must for those who love novels set in Venice.
I hope others have been more successful in their book choices. Despite not having liked this, I will certainly read another of her novels soon.
Has anyone read Territorial Rights? Did you like it?