by Muriel Spark
Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.
I read my first Muriel Spark novel last year when I finally read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and I enjoyed it enough to check out more of Spark's work. I'd heard so many good things about The Driver's Seat and now that I've read it I can safely say it's probably one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. And I really liked it.
This is one of those books that deserves to be read in one sitting - it's only around 100 pages long, so it can easily be read in one night - and once it's finished there's a good chance you'll need to let it stew before you can figure out how you feel about it, but however you feel at the end of it this book is certainly an experience.
Lise, bored with her office job, decides to go on holiday, but everything has to be perfect. She finds a new outfit, creates a new persona for herself and sits between two men on the plane. What follows is deliciously dark.
It's difficult to review this book without giving anything away, and while Spark herself tells the reader what's going to happen at the end long before the end I don't really want to spoil the surprise for anyone out there who wants to read it. (If you'd like to read a review that includes spoilers, check out my review on Goodreads here). All I will say is that The Driver's Seat was described (by Muriel Spark herself, I believe) as a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit; who commits the crime within these pages isn't important, but why the crime is committed is the focus of the book and it's written so brilliantly. Spark has a real talent for writing peculiar, unhinged women and it wouldn't surprise me if Gillian Flynn had learned a thing or two from her.
I would have liked to have gotten into Lise's head a little more, which is why I didn't give The Driver's Seat five stars. We're always held at a distance from her, though the book still packs a real punch, but I'm not sure if I got enough why from this whydunnit or if Spark intended for us to fill in the blanks ourselves. This book will stay with me, though, and I'm going to be recommending the hell out of it to people just so I have someone I can talk to about it.