The Ormulu Clock by Muriel Spark, 1960
The magic trick:
Setting up a rivalry but then muddying the good vs. evil waters
This is a weird one. I’m not sure I liked it much.
We have a kind of showdown in Austria – where the owners of neighboring hotels are engaged in a rivalry. The strange thing, or maybe not strange but unexpected, is that we don’t get an easy-to-read good vs. evil structure. Neither owner seems particularly likable. The reader’s instinct is probably to feel for the losing party – the underdog instinct. But then we seem spying on our narrator in her bedroom.
Like I said, it’s weird. Clearly, there’s more going on here in the story than simple rivalry.
And that’s quite a trick on Spark’s part.
You could tell, even before the local people told you, that Frau Lublonitsch had built up the whole thing by nothing but her own wits and industry. She worked pitifully hard. She did all the cooking. She supervised the househeld and without moving hardly she sped into the running of the establishment like the maniac drivers from Vienna that tore along the high road in front of her place. She scoured the huge pans herself, wielding her pudgy arm round and round. Clearly, she trusted none of the girls to do the job properly.
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