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Muriel Spark

Writer

Dame Muriel Spark, whose spare and humorous novels made her one of the most admired British writers of the post World War II years, died April 13 in Florence, Italy. She was 88.

Spark wrote more than 20 novels, including “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” which became a 1969 film and a 1978 TV series.

She had lived in Italy since the late 1960s, first in Rome and later in a converted 13th-century church in Tuscany with her friend of many years, painter and sculptor Penelope Jardine.

But she retained the accent of her birth and youth in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she attended James Gillespie’s High School for Girls and was taught by the prototype for her most famous character —Miss Jean Brodie.

That 1961 book made her famous internationally. But she already had written seven novels, three volumes of poetry and, since 1950, had been producing respected biographical and critical work about the Bronte family, Mary Shelley and John Masefield.

“The Girls of Slender Means,” considered by many to be her best novel, was published in 1963, drawing on her experience as a young woman struggling to make ends meet while writing in London.

Most of Spark’s novels are short and spare, with the plots often bizarre or macabre, satirical or darkly humorous. Several were adapted for British television.

In 1970’s “The Driver’s Seat,” the main character searches for someone to murder her.

And “The Abbess of Crewe,” a 1974 satire written after Watergate, is about the political machinations in an ecclesiastical community.

Spark is survived by her son, Robin.

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