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I recently discovered Muriel Spark and have been hustling through her wonderful books. Memento Mori is another winner, all the moreso because the main characters (who are really characters) ar over 70. Spark is a master at depicting a particularly brittle segment of English society, that of the upper class at the edge of the way down and the middle class at the edge of the way up. And she does it with such wit and dark humor. One moment I was laughing out loud, the next asking, shocked, "Did that really just happen?"
Dame Lettie Coulson is the victim of an anonymous phone caller who leaves a message especially for her: "Remember you must die." She and her brother Godfrey can never agree if the caller is young or old, definitely English or has an accent, but they do agree that he is quite polite. Soon a number of other elderly persons begin receiving similar calls, but the local police are ready to attribute the whole affair to senility.
As we learn more about the aged characters, their secrets begin to come out into the open. Spark reminds us that the elderly were not always elderly and in fact had lives as vital, as fallible, and often as wicked as our own. And she does it with such humor that we find ourselves laughing not only at them but at our own foibles.
Another winner from Spark, and I'm off to read another one.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
When Dame Lettie Colston receives another in a series of what appear to be crank calls—the caller always delivering the same message "Remember you must die"—she is, of course, deeply disturbed. Is the caller a madman? Is it someone close to her trying to scare her to death in hopes of coming into a large inheritance? Eventually, most of her acquaintances, including her brother Godfrey and his wife, Charmian—a once celebrated novelist well into her eighties sinking into dementia—also receive the strange calls. Far from convincing the police to take the matter seriously, the victims each claiming that the caller is a different person and that a gang must therefore be behind the hoax, has the officials thinking the whole case is a perfect example of mass hysteria.
I had read some excellent reviews about this book, which, according to some sources, might be Spark's best novel, so did come to it with some expectations and was pleasantly surprised to find that it more than deserved the praise. The biggest surprise was that Spark managed to make a book about death and dying so funny and not the least bit morbid (or hardly at all) and the group of elderly characters—the youngest of them at just over seventy—an absolutely fascinating bunch to read about. This audiobook version read by Nadia May is highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful