A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Dougal Douglas—or Douglas Dougal when it suits him—is the catalyst for a strange series of events in the working class neighborhood of Peckham in South East London. He’s an immigrant from Scotland who manages to charm his way into two jobs in the neighborhood without doing much of anything for either employer. (That is, unless psycho-analyzing Mr. Druce, his boss at the nylon manufacturers Meadows, Meade & Grindley counts.)
Dougal simply slips into the community and starts disrupting everything from local businesses to local love lives, all without much motive or any real ill intentions. There’s an element of Prince Myshkin-ness about him. Just replace passivity with indifference and Dostoyevsky’s Idiot becomes Dougal.
The Ballad of Peckham Rye was the first Muriel Spark I ever read. It’s also the first I’ve re-read. While The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, or the disturbing little thriller The Driver’s Seat all loom pretty large in my memory, none have stuck with me quite like Peckham Rye. It’s dark but funny, heavy but readable, and Dougal Douglas is a character for the ages. It’s recommended for just about anyone, and I think it would make a great book club pick.
Review by Matthew