"How wonderful to be an artist and a woman in the twentieth century," Fleur Talbot rejoices. Loitering about London in 1949, with intent to gather material for her writing, Fleur finds a job "on the grubby edge of the literary world," as secretary to the odd Autobiographical Association. Are they a group of mad egomaniacs, hilariously writing their memoirs in advance—or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? Rich material, in any case.
But when its pompous director, Sir Quentin, steals the manuscript of Fleur's new novel, fiction begins to appropriate life. The association's members begin to act out scenes exactly as Fleur herself had already written them in her missing manuscript. And as they meet darkly funny, pre-visioned fates, where does art start or reality end?
This novel is Muriel Spark in prime form, one of her most enjoyable, complex, and instructive jeux d'esprit.