Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Abbess of Crewe: A Modern Morality Tale by Muriel Spark

I am reading old forgotten books again. The Western Springs Library Friends have more books than they can store at the moment and have a table loaded with free books. I found The Abbess of Crewe: A Modern Morality Tale by Muriel Spark, one of my favorite novelists, a couple of weeks ago and chose it to take on my trip to Minneapolis. I started it in a coffee shop yesterday after the closing session of the Public Library Association at 1:00 p.m. and found time to finish it just after takeoff of my 6:45 p.m. flight to Chicago. At 116 pages, it is a delightful quick read.

The story takes place in a convent of nuns in Great Britain in which the old abbess has died and a new abbess is elected. In the period of mourning before the peers select their new leader, who will exchange her black robes for white, a thimble is stolen from a nun's sewing box. The box itself is a highly debated subject among the sisters, as it is a bit grand for a nun who has renounced all worldly possessions. That young nun has also frequently missed attending Matins and Lauds, and the gossip is thick.

The 1974 copyright date is significant. I do not want to spoil surprises, but I will say that Spark skillfully relocated highly reported events of 1972 to 1974 to her fictional nunnery. Anyone who lived through those years will recognize the replay by the end of chapter one. The book is wickedly funny, and Spark's insertion of classical poetry as the new abbess's theatrical asides is masterful.

I have not actually figured it all out. Can someone tell me who Sister Gertrude is and why she is flying around the globe visiting remote cultures?

Spark, Muriel. The Abbess of Crewe: A Modern Morality Tale. Viking Press, 1974. ISBN 0670100293

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sister Gertrude is Henry Kissinger Nixon's similarly gruff voiced globe trotting Sectretary of State.