Memento Mori by Muriel Spark - a review
Published on 22nd May 2014
Review by Bookends Reading Group, Cabra Library
Gerry, the Librarian who (very ably) looks after our Reading Group, suggested we read Memento Mori for this Bealtaine Books review submission on the basis that we might enjoy it as it is a funny book. We almost all did find it funny to varying degrees although, interestingly, Gerry himself didn’t enjoy it. In summary the book is about a group of interconnected old people who start to receive phone calls reminding them that they must die from an unidentified caller who sounds different to each hearer.
Patricia loved the title and cover, but due to other commitments didn’t get time to read it as well as the other two books we read that month. Grace was not mad about it but Noreen described it as a little gem. Marian found it very funny and particularly loved the geriatrician character. Ada said she got a great laugh from the book and loved all the characters. Sheila enjoyed all the characters as they were well-drawn and had great back stories but considered the ending did not do justice to the book and not because there was no unveiling of the phone caller but more because it just petered out. Ada also did not like the ending. Noreen made the point that although the book deals with serious issues like getting old and the quality of health services and could have been morbid, it certainly wasn’t.
We were all of the view that it was a book that would appeal more to an older readership and wondered about Muriel Spark’s connection with the elderly as it was published in her very early 40s. It comes across as a book by someone who sees the elderly and infirm as retaining all the characteristics, concerns and relevance that applied to them as young adults. Marian was struck by the lack of intergenerational contact within the book – even the former police inspector they consult and the carer hired for Charmian are elderly. It is noteworthy that the one young character who accompanied them on the visit to the retired inspector is remonstrated with by his wife for failing to assist them in making their way from car to house.
Grace considered that Charmian had a very pleasant form of dementia that was removed from reality and we concluded that it was probably not real dementia but more of a coping mechanism that she had developed for dealing with her husband. Sheila though it interesting that even though Charmian still viewed Taylor’s thwarted relationship with Alec Warner as a tragedy, for the woman herself it was no longer a source of any regret whatsoever, thus pointing up how the importance of events changes with the passage of time.
Although the level of enjoyment of Memento Mori varied, we all agreed that we would definitely like to read more by Muriel Spark.
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