This 1988 novel is told from the perspective of Mrs. Hawkins, who, now living a leisurely existence in Italy, looks back on her days as a young widow employed by an oddball publisher. Typical Spark, the plot soon becomes laced with mystery involving blackmail, suicide, and other dastardly doings. Great fun. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Even the title is witty in this latest of Spark's delightful novels, bearing as it does at least three layers of ambiguity. It is a tale told in a splendidly commonsensical way by Mrs. Hawkins, a buxom young war widow who is a tower of strength in a failing London publishing house during the lean years after WW II. She is surrounded, both at work and in her seedy Kensington boarding house, by those slightly off-center eccentrics the Englishand particularly Sparkdraw to perfection; everything on the surface seems utterly realistic, yet fantasy as rich as anything in Garcia Marquez is only a breath away. Mrs. Hawkins selects a hate object among the literary hangers-on at her firm, and that hatred changes her life. She also becomes involved with a Polish dressmaker with a dark secret, invents a supremely successful method of dieting and almost in spite of herself becomes happy. Spark knows the wonderfully zany world of postwar-London publishing backward, her wit has never been more telling, and any book person is going to gobble this up. A sample, to whet the appetite: ``Publishers, for obvious reasons, attempt to make friends with their authors. Martin York tried to make authors of his friends.'' (July)