"Memento mori" is the third novel written by the English author Muriel Spark (originally from Scotland). The novel was published in 1959.
The book is about death and senility, with a typically Anglo-Saxon tone and style of writing.
The novel begins with the disturbing atmosphere of a thriller: some people start to receive anonymous phone calls periodically in which they are told "Remember you have to die". The first telephone victims of the unknown molester are Lettie Colston, a lady in the crown, her brother Godfrey, a retired former industrialist, and his wife Charmian, a famous writer. All three are elderly or very old, and each of them reacts differently to phone calls. The novel soon becomes choral, because around this central nucleus of characters begin to rotate relatives, friends and servants (we are in the English high society), nobody with less than seventy years, whose mutual relationships lead us to discover the misunderstandings and the ambiguities that have characterized, in the preceding decades, the apparently affectionate and formally correct relationships between the various characters, actually made of repressed hatreds, of love and betrayal dating back to the early years of the century, of unconfessable vices and blackmail. In the course of history, many characters will die, most of them due to natural causes and no one because of the mysterious person who calls.
But soon the novel takes on a more comical and light connotation: each of the protagonists is grappling with the physical and even mental ailments of age, and this senile state, described with light cruelty by Spark, conditions their being and their way to relate to others. For example, Charmian, the writer who has not written for decades, seems to be losing her memory and this irritates her husband in particular; Godfrey is now reduced to satisfy what remains of his past sexual appetites by paying a young woman to show him her thighs; the faithful maid and lady of Charmian company is now forced to live in the geriatric department of a hospital, in the company of a group of fighter people over eighty; the paranoid Dame Lettie continually changes her will from time to time suspecting one or the other of her friends to be the mysterious phone-harasser