Spark was “a survivor, a phoenix”, and resolutely shook off the clinging hands of lesser mortals who would have dragged her down. The first hands she shook off were those of her Jewish working-class family in Edinburgh. They were kind people, and scraped to send her to a fee-paying school. But they were not intellectuals, so at 19 she married a maths teacher, Sydney Spark, joining him in Rhodesia where he had found employment. Robin was born a year later in 1938. Unfortunately, Sydney turned out to be mentally ill and violent, and Spark fled to wartime London, leaving Robin behind in care.
She was born Muriel Sarah Camberg in Edinburgh, to a Jewish father and an English (and Anglican) mother, and was educated at James Gillespie's High School for Girls...Spark and her son had a strained relationship. They had a falling out when Robin's Judaism prompted him to petition for his late grandmother to be recognized as Jewish. The devout Catholic Spark reacted by accusing him of seeking publicity to further his career as an artist. During one of her last book signings in Edinburgh she responded to an enquiry from a journalist asking if she would see her son by saying 'I think I know how best to avoid him by now'.