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Book reviews for "Murdoch,_Iris" sorted by average review score:

The Sovereignty of Good
Published in Paperback by Routledge Kegan & Paul (1985)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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Read this book before declaring a philosophy major PLEASE
This book reaffirmed my belief that focusing on modern German philosophy was a bad idea. Unfortunately, I came to this conclusion and read this book in my senior year. After graduation and after rereading this book several times, I have realized that one of my main motivations in studying philosophy, to attain esoteric enlightenment, was a washout. After the painful and time consuming study of people like Hegel, my ethical stance is not any different than before I started college.

Thank you Iris Murdoch for telling me that my time has been frittered. Thank you also for being so terse.

Lucid and brilliant
Murdoch's clarity and keenness as a thinker are everywhere evident in the three essays that comprise this short book. It is at once a kind of paean to common sense and an intricate philosophical working-through of fundamental human dillemmas.

In the subject of moral philosophy, Murdoch clearly comes down on the side of what many might feel to be a kind of Anglican conservatism, though a careful reading will, I think, reveal the deep sense of connectedness and love which inform her thinking. In particular, the book offers a fertile critique of central concepts in existential thought, and of the moral relativism which postmodern philosophy can sometimes engender.

Readers of her novels in particular will appreciate this glimpse of Murdoch's philosophical thought, and will notice how it informs her craft as an artist.

The Book and the Brotherhood
Published in Paperback by Penguin USA (Paper) (1989)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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A Chorus-line of Snails
Iris Murdoch's "The Book and the Brotherhood" is a marvelously droll novel of manners that has the audacity to explore the philosophical and moral issues that have effectively paralyzed a group of '60s-era Oxford graduates. The novel opens, appropriately enough, at Oxford, where, in the shadow of their former classmates and professors, the friends have gathered some 25 years later for a Ball. The narrative follows the movements of the group in a Mozartian roundelay, as each is, in turn, humiliated by revenants that appear to mock the potential they have, with one notable exception, so ingloriously squandered. The title refers to a pact the graduates once made to underwrite a philosophical treatise to be written by David Crimond, the most charismatic of their set; to the consternation of each, however, it now appears that the book might actually become a reality, and the prospect of its publication leads the group to an orgy of self-reproach and soul searching. The event of the Ball also inspires one wife to leave her husband and to take up with Crimond, a decision that leads to unexpected complications in all their lives. The novel is full of comic and tragic moments whenever the principals, whom Murdoch likens to a chorus-line of snails, attempt to emerge from their shells. A second generation of thirty-somethings is headed down the same path of dalliance as their elders, or so it seems, until, in the final pages, Murdoch offer an affirmation, of sorts, in the form of a pending marriage. Readers familiar with earlier novels by the late Dame will not be disappointed by this weighty offering from 1987, which can only enhance Murdoch's already-secure reputation as one of the great novelists of her generation.

Murdoch's Narrator
This novel may be Murdoch's finest. It has a wonderful and large cast of memorable characters; their sufferings are both moving and laughable. It has the finest parrot in all literature. The problem I first had with the novel was discovering what it was about. There were so many major characters and so many bizarre incidents that I could not easily find the book's theme--and I had been taught to look for themes. I think that at the heart of the novel, often unnoticed by its readers, is Murdoch's narrator. The narrator is almost never intrusive, but her presence makes the novel hang together.

Sprawling, intense, with lots of great character interaction
Murdoch establishes a tone entirely different from those of her other novels. The characters seem more disturbed and more strained than those of her other works, yet their conclusions become more meaningful. In this novel, Murdoch may come as close as she ever does to the "real" world that we experience. It shows how difficult it is to be good, to throw off the tendencies towards self-delusion that keep us from seeing what is really going on in the world. Jenkin and Gerard are especially interesting characters in the contrast they create, and Crimond is fascinating because Murdoch allows him to remain vague for most of the novel. Also, the complex beginning that hints at A Midsummer Night's Dream is ingenious. Besides The Green Knight, this could be Murdoch's most ambitious work.

Bruno's Dream
Published in Paperback by Penguin USA (Paper) (1987)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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a forgotton gem
Bruno's Dream is one of the forgotton books in the Murdoch oeuvre. While I would not encourage anyone new to Murdoch to start here I would suggest that anyone who enjoys her uneven but magical and haunting books should seek this one out.

It has an acute sense of place and the portrayal of the shabby and little known area of Chelsea, London near the Lots Road power station is powerful. It is one of the first times that I have felt a need to search out the actual physical location of a novel (not much changed actually).

This story of a dying man is a gentle and unfashionable book. I will never forget it.

simply the best
Of all the whimsical, fictional worlds created by Iris Murdoch, this one is the most haunting and compelling. Her gift for "reading" the human condition is a given; her ability to find consistently some light in the darkest human soul is a gift. The novel's humor notwithstanding, this is a story of desperate people who, unbeknownst to them, live under the watchful, sheltering love of a strange, gentle man (Nigel), who is everywhere and nowhere, and who, along with his unwitting protege, Diana, represents the purest example I've seen in Murdoch's fiction of her concept of selfless love, the ability to be "good for nothing." The final scene between tortured, dying Bruno and spiritually exhausted Diana is as moving as any in literature. I've read all of Murdoch's novels, and each has its beauties. This one stays in my heart, like the memory of innocence.

Another Wonderful Novel
Bruno's Dream is a wonderful novel and it's a shame it's out of print. I was so pleased to discover a copy in a used book store, and even more pleased upon reading it. The story revolves around Bruno, a dying old man, and the people in his life--both living and not. Murdoch once again demonstrates her incredible talent to explore the realities of human relationships, to get you thinking on the nature of friendship and love. The novel is at times humorous, serious, philisophical and bittersweet. A truly enjoyable read.

Word Child
Published in Paperback by Viking Press (1987)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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dis book ok but not so very good
dis book not dat good but it ok good. me like dat book severed head very good cause i like dat, taking heads.

An astonishingly fantastic read
This is one of those books that you simply cannot put down once you begin. Murdoch does such an excellent job of creating a most complex and entertaining character (Hilary) -- I laughed while reading it so much I think my husband will be reading it next. An amazingly developed character, a plot that will keep you turning the page, and sorrow so palpable you will want to weep on poor Hilary's behalf.

New Murdoch Fan
The plot concerns a deeply unappealing and uncivil servant called Hilary whose current angst has arisen from, as the blurb puts it, "a tragic love tangle". I found the first third the book a little difficult to get through but what kept me turning pages was Murdoch's remarkable insight into human action. Once the reason for Hilary's abominable behavior becomes clear, you can't help but share Murdoch's empathy for him and, thereafter, the novel blooms and rips along with all the key relationships intertwining in increasingly intense ways. The conclusion is deeply satisfying on every level: dramatically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This was my first sampling of Murdoch. She is a stunning writer and I'm very glad to have "discovered" her for myself.

A Fairly Honourable Defeat
Published in Hardcover by Chatto & Windus (1970)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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This book made me see my own life as a novel.
After reading Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honorable Defeat, I had the oddest sensation of imagining what my own life would look like in her hands. I find this story of two marriages, tinkered with by an enigmatic magician so absorbing that I just spent the entire weekend reading it. Does anyone know if Julius King is a personification? I am now reading Iris Murdoch's book The Fire and the Sun. I like the part where she says that Plato "...was impressed by the way in which artists can produce what they cannot account for..." Whenever I read one of her novels, I find myself going to the library to find out what she was talking about.

A Fairly Intense Exploration of Love
I first became a Murdoch fanatic in my 20s, and would gobble up her books like Oreo cookies. At the time I was dazzled: nobody wrote like her, with precise descriptions of physical and psychological terrain alike. Nobody made me laugh with delight with descriptions that were comic without being mean spirited. (I'm hard pressed to find a writer as brilliant.) In the past, I recommended this book to others with rave reviews-all the while certain that I had a lock on what it "meant." The characters alone are a hoot: You've got the Machivellian Julius, the sassy but silly Morgan, the calm but fuzzily ineffective Tallis. But there's also Rupert-whose writing a tome about philosophy and seeks to enlighten others. Add to that Simon, his gay brother, Hilda, Rupert's loving, slightly plump and aging wife. We don't really see her interior at all, and yet we know her, a droll, sweet and self-satisfied woman, and one who is about to face the shock of her life. The great characters and qualities that make ALL her books amazing are especially evident in this novel, with its sparkling wit, bold situations, and dryly humorous dialogue. Just to give you a taste, in one chapter, a character's clothing gets cut to shreds by an opponent,who leaves his foe literally naked and defenseless. Magically, this "scene" works and seems entirely believable. Few writers can pull that off. On a more serious note, "A Fairly Honorable Defeat" was always my favorite because of what it had to say about loving someone (e.g., truly noticing another and acting in their interest along with your own) vs. "using" them for whatever reason or out of whatever weakness. What it has to say beyond that, I'm not entirely sure. Not that a lack of knowing interferes with the pleasure of reading. Besides, Murdoch the story teller is saying something different than any of the pompous things that come out of the mouths of MOST of her characters. All I have to say is, in this one, don't underestimate Tallis. Happy reading.

Murdoch's monster
Iris Murdoch's novels are addictive. Since a friend gave me a copy of "The Bell" a few months ago, I've read almost nothing but Murdoch--11 novels in all. In fact, I checked out six at one time from my university library so as soon as I finished one I could start on another. I've become a chain-reader. This one may be the best one so far. It's certainly the most chilling, if not the most riveting. It's a good place to start for the uninitiated because it's so incredibly engaging and entertaining, althougt not necessarily fun. All of the basic Murdoch elements are there--the complexity of love and life; the overwhelming essentialness of love to life; the frailties, faults, and follies of basically good people; the way the lives of good people can be wrecked by both their own carelessness and by intentional acts of evil; and despite all of this, an odd optimism that life is good and that all will be well. ... Julius is even more frightening, however, because you will recognize in him someone you know or have known. Although there are no monsters, ghosts, or serial killers, the book is as suspensful as any of the popular horror or crime novel that routinely makes the bestseller lists today. And no "romance" writer alive knows more about love and sex than Murdoch. I always finish Murdoch's books feeling unsettled but strangely satisfied and always awestruck by what she is able to do with plot, characters, ideas, and words. Put down your Stephen King, your John Grisham, or your Danielle Steel and pick up this book instead.

A Severed Head
Published in Hardcover by Vintage/Ebury (A Division of Random House Group) (01 January, 1961)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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As an Iris Murdoch "junkie", I relish all of her works, and I'm still in the process of completing the list. My personal favorites have to be A Severed Head, The Sea, The Sea, Bruno's Dream and The Green Knight, so far. A Severed Head is particularly enjoyable because its plot is fast-moving and doesn't get sidetracked with lengthy philosophical or religious theory that is inherent in so many of her books. While I do enjoy examining these topics, it's also great just to get engrossed in a good story without having to think existentially, if you know what I mean. She has incredible talent as a novelist in developing characters, describing setting, developing plot and building suspense. She uses these gifts, combined with her great sense of humor, to bring her stories to an unanticipated climax, with an even more unexpected, and often happy, ending. She treats her readers as intellectual equals, which is a nice compliment, although I know I've come up short a few times -- particularly when one of her characters spouts off a phrase in a foreign language. It's the price you pay for good art, and I wouldn't change a thing. This book is a great jumping off point for new Iris Murdoch readers, who can then graduate to her lengthier, (and more philosophical) works later. Not many people can write like Iris Murdoch, and she is missed by many. Luckily, she left her legacy in her writings that we can all enjoy for many, many years to come.

A Masterpiece of Sly Humour
In "A Severed Head," Iris Murdoch takes the bedroom farce to a whole new level. It's a tangled tale of love, adultery, deception, self-deception, jealousy and attempted suicide, all rendered with deadpan humour and with just enough darkness lurking behind the scenes to make it even more interesting. Many of Murdoch's novels have a central character cast as the master manipulator, but here it's never clear who is manipulating whom. The portrayal of the ponderous, rather smug protagonist is a masterpiece of sly character assassination and the immortal Honor Klein is...well, you'll have to read the book to find out. Heartily recommended.

A Surrealist tale
Martin Lynch-Gibbon thinks he has it all. He is envied by all by marrying Antonia, a beauty sought by many wealthy and influential men. He has a mistress named Georgie and is quite content with his life. Unfortunately, his wife drops a bombshell. She wants to leave him for her psychotherapist, a man Martin himself introduced her to! He tries to dissuade her by being very civilized about the whole thing. He says all right have an affair but let's forget all this nonsense about divorce. However, Antonia is adament. Martin finds to his dismay that he is to be part of a threesome (not sexual) between Antonio, Palmer and himself. He becomes angry at himself for allowing his emasculazation but rather than take it out on his tormenters, he "acts out" with the enigmatic Honor Klein, Palmer's half-sister. Nothing in this book is what you would imagine. Put aside all preconceptions and simply read it, not just for the story, which seems to move sideways rather than forward but for the character studies and be prepared - nothing is what you think. Iris Murdoch was a great novelist and her irony reminds me a bit of Jane Austin's, although it is of a different kind. While Austin's irony has more to do with words than situations, Murdoch's is more ironic in the situations she creates than the words she uses although her words are marvelous. The dialogues (both internal and external) the characters use are sly and witty. After Pride and Prejudice, I would have to say that this is my favorite book.

The Bell
Published in Hardcover by Vintage/Ebury (A Division of Random House Group) (01 January, 1975)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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The Preverse Laughter of Nuns
The first fifty or so pages of Iris Murdoch's The Bell chronicle how the terminally confused but kind Dora Greenfield leaves her emotionally sadistic husband only to retun in a still more confused mixture of guilt, fear and love. Murdoch's tone here is gently satarical and distant. In that opening act I found her wit amusing, never involving. Alarmingly it reminded me of highschool, when the Literature was rich, witty and clinical. It reminded me of homework.

It is only in the second act when Dora joins her husband in the religious community of Imber that it becomes clear the author is building to what will ultimatly become one of the most remarkable examinations of faith I've ever read. The novel achieves critical mass with the introduction of Michael Meade, the founder of the community. He has always struggled with his homosexuality, and deep down we sense that in a bizzare way he enjoys the struggle "like the souls in Dante who deliberately remained within the purifying fire". He believes that the struggle is faith, where he gets to define his own morality. By contrast the community's other figure head, the large affable James believes in clear black and white terms "Sodomy is not disgusting its just forbidden", unlike Michael he believes that innoccense and authority are the measure of faith. While this unacknowledged philosophical debate wages on, Imber's cast of characters get into such a tangled web of flirtations, jealousy and mis-understanding so brilliantly weaved by Murdoch that we only upon reflection do we question the character's motivations.

Right across from Imber is the Abbey where a faceless, nameless order of Nuns go about their business. We meet three of these nuns, the powerful Abbess who seems to know everything and is always bearing a smile. Sister Ursula who is her attache, and who also is constantly smiling. Finally there is Sister Clare, and as she saves a woman from drowning, Murdoch takes the time to point out that she too is smiling. The nuns are ever present, watching, mocking these mortals who can not give up the world but sill seek the Hereafter. As Murdoch observes "Violence is born out of the desire to escape oneself". And all these characters are desperatly trying to escape. This is coupled by the much darker suggestion that although God exists and is just, he can also be uncaring. Why would he create homosexuality only to condemn it? Late in the game Michael observes that there is God but he may not believe in Him.

It is clear from The Bell that Murdoch is not only a novelist but a philosopher(and indeed this is confirmed in the sleeve notes). The ideas, reflections and themes are far too complex to discuss here. But there are sequences so perfectly and soulbearingly written that they warrant reading the book more then once. What starts as a gentle satire grows a heart without ever losing its sense of humour or even a sense of whimsy. Although sometimes distant, the novel is never tedious. And if there is a lesson, then its the lesson Michael learns "Love ought to be given without fear of its imperfection".

A Gorgeous Book
The Bell is the only Murdoch novel I've really liked. I've read it, probably, dozens of times, and it improves with each read. The language is of a poetic quality - my test for this is that it's best when read out loud.

The theme of the book is the nature of human goodness, and the impossibility of human perfection. Murdoch was an Oxford Reader in Moral Philosophy at the time, and was well capable of producing a very dry account of this subject, but instead the book is a masterpiece of subtle comedy which gets its serious ideas across with great subtlety. The first two chapters, in particular, draw the reader into the life of the heroine with a piece of sustained artistry that is quite unparalleled, at least in my experience. It's a gorgeous piece of prose that I never tire of reading.

Dora, the heroine (and I use the term deliberately), is presented as a totally amoral being (and therefore, like the dog, without sin). She is incapable of deciding to "do the right thing", but also incapable of real wrong-doing. All the other characters are in some way struggling with their own moral turpitude, and in trying to intellectualize their struggle, accellerate their approaching doom. Dora meanwhile, guided only by her animal instincts, emerges as a Saint, cheered on at every stage by the reader (well, this reader at least). Furthermore, Dora's redemption occurs in spite of, rather than because of, the moral and intellectual strictures of Organised Religion. You cheer for Dora as she leaves the Chapel in disgust, just as you cheer for Austen's Elizabeth Bennet when she faces down Lady Catherine. It's that good!

The Bell of the title is a symbol of untrammelled female sexuality that resounds throughout the book. This theme is explored, ironically, in a plot which takes place around the grounds of a convent. There's a disturbing painting by Millais called "The Vale of Rest" that I think must have inspired Murdoch. The picture of nuns digging a grave is a wonderful image of Victorian male sexual terror (conceived, incidentally, by Millais on his honeymoon). In the backgound swings the bell. When moved, it must sound.

Apart from Dora, most of the other characters emerge from the events of the plot with their lives in ruins. Dora, in contrast, learns to value herself by finally detaching herself from the awful man she had married.

I'm very conscious of the fact that not all readers would share my interpretation of the book, and in all probability Murdoch didn't mean it that way. She was on record as saying that if she'd known how readers would feel about Dora's awful husband, she would have treated him more sympathetically. But the book is as it is, and as a description of the triumph of the Human Spirit over priests and pedants, it's just fine for me.

Incidentally, it was made into a very good television version by the BBC about 20 years ago. I hope they repeat it one day.

One of Murdoch's best (and a real page-turner to boot!)
This profound and haunting novel features Murdoch's unique blend of religious preoccupations, sexual politics, and philosophy (or, as she more accurately referred to it elsewhere, "moral psychology")--but, in spite of its many-layered symbolism, it still manages to be surprisingly suspenseful. If you've never read a book by Iris Murdoch and are interested in finding a good place to start, read "The Bell."

A sort of psychological detective novel, the story is told through the eyes a leader of a lay religious community who is haunted by secrets from his past and also from the perspective of two visitors: a carefree woman returning to her boorish husband who is studying at a nearby convent and an innocent youth hoping to be inspired by the community's spiritual atmosphere before he goes to Oxford. The plot revolves around a bell missing for centuries and the community's plans to replace it with a new one, but I will say nothing else that might give it away.

The first half of the book is a very British comedy of manners (and it is at times very funny), but then things get out of hand when the two visitors, both knowingly and unwittingly, set into motion a series of tragic events that shatter the faith and foundations of the group. Although I was constantly surprised by the book's twists and turns, when I finished the novel I felt that all the events were very nearly pre-ordained by the actions and ethics of its characters.

Murdoch's genius is her ability to pose many complicated questions and provide just enough for readers to decide for themselves. Are the visitors responsible for destroying the community's equanimity or were they simply the catalyst that exposed the hypocrisies and self-centeredness of the commune's members? Must a person transcend selfishness in order to influence others for the better? Does it take tragedy to bring out the best in people? Is it ever really possible to wall oneself away from the rest of the world?

It seems almost incidental in this day and age to acknowledge that the novel portrays two gay men in a sympathetic manner astonishing for a book published in 1958--yet another aspect that displays the power and forwardness of Murdoch's thinking.

Iris Murdoch for Beginners
Published in Paperback by Writers & Readers (10 May, 2001)
Authors: Bran Nicol and Piero
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Very enjoyable
Like the reviewer below I bought this book a little guiltily. I already know quite a lot abot Iris Murdoch and I was curious to know what on earth this comic book could have to say about such a serious writer and for what audience. However it's a fun and surprisingly informative read and I certainly learnt things about Murdoch that I didn't know before. It also got me interested in Murdoch all over again and I am now re-reading some of the novels and catching up with those I missed out first time round. It makes me happy to see so many positive reviews of the Murdoch books on Amazon and so many delighted new readers. It almost looks like she's becoming quite a cult. Perhaps one day soon I'll be able to stop saying "I know it's unfashionable to like Iris Murdoch but..."

A Great Way to Begin
I only bought this book because I thought it was hilarious that the Beginners series did one on Iris Murdoch. It just seemed a strange choice. However, now that I've read it I feel that Bran Nicol gives a very comprehensive and entertaining introduction to one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century. The most insightful thing about the book is his very concise, but pointed explanation of Murdoch's philosophy. He does this systematically by explaining the terms of philosophy she was working with in her time period and giving short summaries of the influential thinkers like Plato, Sarte & Freud. He also does a fair evaluation of some of her most important fiction and gives a summary of the most poignant events in her life. While he could have written much more as she wrote so many interesting and diverse novels, the aim of the book and the series is only to give a beginning to the author and there are tips at the end of the best books of Murdoch's to begin with to understand her work. I'd recommend this book to not only anyone who hasn't read books by Murdoch and wants a starting point with her work, but also to people who've read several of her novels and want a better understanding of her place as a great philosophical thinker. This naturally gives further insight to the books you have already read by her. It is a comprehensive and rich start.

Now I know why I was attracted when diagnosed with CRS
Very soon after I was diagnosed as inflicted with Alzheimer's, the movie, "Iris", came forth. Before I saw the movie, I bought the book, John Bayley's, "Iris, A Memoir," but have not been able to finish it, one of my CRS symptoms is an inability to read as I used to. Then I saw the movie, and it was as confusing to me as "Godsford Park," because of the convoluted story line: e.g., ALZ has rendered such works as CSI and West Wing totally incomprehensible.

I wondered, in my ignorance, who the heck was Iris Murdoch, and why all the fuss and feathers.

Then I bought this gem of a book by Nicol. I am transported. The text, with telling quotes and illustrations, tells me what I have overlooked, pre-ALZ. Do I feel guilty as an Emeritus Professor in resorting to the Classic Comics of the 21st Century?
Not in the slightest: Nicol puts forth one idea in serial fashion and for the first time I understand rational humanism, existentialism, selfism & Simone Weill.

Murdoch defines my AA Higher power as "A single perfect transcendent non-representational and necessarily real object of attention." I can live with that in preference to the Ontology of Neo-Scholasticism of my own undergraduate daze.
I am indebted to Nicol for pointing out Murdoch's notion of love as the ideal of attention: "When we really love someone (rather than just lusting after them or seeing them as someone who can improve our self-image)--we are really seeing them. . . We become so immersed in them that we actually forget ourselves for a moment. We obliterate our self by attempting to empathize with another." [And CODA be damned.]

Therefore, I am truly grateful for this "trot." It gives me what I can no longer do for myself, due to my own data overload ALZ deterioration. Thank you, Nicol.

Memory Impaired "Reverse Mike."

The Message to the Planet
Published in Audio Cassette by New Millennium Audio (2002)
Authors: Iris Murdoch and Juliet Mills
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I'm just starting on Murdoch
I am just starting on Murdoch. Having read the Green Knight previously I found this book a dissapointment. Yet I couldn't, or wouldn't let myself put it down. In The Green Knight, Murdoch created a wonderful mixture of spiritual depths and the basic gossipy human interaction that makes a novel fantastic. Also, an incredible authorial and personal sense of the community that friends and (sometimes) family develop. This one seemed to be striving for the same and yet failed as I could see. I was continually judging the characters, weighing them mentally. This in itself is not a problem, but when they consisently come up lacking or increasingly confusing, and without what I sensed as an overriding authorial vision of who they truly are, it becomes difficult to maintain faith in a novel and the potential larger message. I found the narrator's fascination with the main character unjustified; indeed, his interpretations of all the characters were difficult. And again, such limited authorial intrustion to provide me with a reliable roadmap. Nevertheless, I am addicted to this writer and am now on the one Iris Murdoch a month track.

Philosophy and Love
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I like this book at least as well as The Bell and the Sandcastle, and very possibly more.

One of the characters in this book asks where ordinary morality is, when what is called for in the world is the courage of a saint. Once again, Murdoch visits the question of the Good and how it applies to human life. This time the question centers around Marcus, who anchors the novel as a character from myth-- sometimes a saint, sometimes Prospero, sometimes a lunatic. Each of the other characters in the book have to find their way (through eccentric marriages, chaste romances, resurrections, and mysticism) in a world where all the familiar rules no longer apply. All the solutions (where there are solutions) are complicated and costly.

As usual, the writing is crisp and incisive, the characters well-formed and very complete. One of the great Murdoch novels.

A brilliant, incisive novel
Although this is ostensibly a novel about a bizarre character's interaction with the world around him, what I took from it is a probing, insightful look by Murdoch at the question of what would it be like if Jesus appeared in present times....Her prose is dense and the book can be difficult at times, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

Published in Hardcover by HarperCollins Publishers (01 September, 1979)
Author: Iris Murdoch
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The Most Gorgeous Prose...and a Wonderful Story, Too
The Sea, The Sea has become one of my top five favorite books and Iris Murdoch one of my favorite authors.

In The Sea, The Sea, we meet arrogant, snobbish Charles Arrowby, a retired London theatre director. Charles has recently bought a house by the sea where he hopes to finish his pretentious autobiography. Many things happen, however, to disrupt this enterprise.

First, Charles discovers that one of the small town's inhabitants is his very first love, a love who disappeared from his life in his teens. Believing her to symbolize his lost youth and innocence, Charles becomes obsessed with her almost to the point of madness.

Iris Murdoch's books are all excellent studies of relationships and The Sea, The Sea is certainly one of her best. In it, the character of Charles lies at the center of a vast network of complex relationships and interpersonal interactions. Much of the novel is an exploration of how we, ourselves, influence what others eventually come to see about people and how they relate to them.

Although relationships take center stage in this novel, there is much symbolism and even a little of the supernatural. The sea is so ever-present in this book that it almost seems to be a character in and of itself. Charles reacts to the sea in many ways, some benign, some not so benign. The sea, itself, is portrayed as something that is untimately not able to be understood or controlled, much as is life.

Although this book is passionately moral, it is definitely not a treatise on how to behave in a moral fashion. In fact, many of Murdoch's characters could be said to be anything but "moral." The values and consequences portrayed in this book are done with such a skillful hand, that The Sea, The Sea sits head and shoulders above Murdoch's other books, good as they are.

Just like the theatrical world it explores, The Sea, The Sea, is a showy, dramatic and powerfully effective book. It is Iris Murdoch's masterpiece and a huge reward for any reader.

Everything you've heard is true
First of all, I'm not 3, I'm 31, but the "how old are you?" seems to stop at 12.

This really is one of those books that just swallows you up. The sheer tangibility of the details, the observation, and above all the immensely impressive way that the "fabulous" or "occult" is woven into the tale make this impossible to resist. It's long haul, but you don't begrudge a page. The character of the cousin, James, seems to me one of the most tantalising and fascinating characters in modern literature. The narrator's own egotism and ignorance prevent him from seeing this too late. Some remarkable, perhaps impossible things are never fully explained, and that, my friends, is life. I've read this book three times in the last five years and I still get surprised by it. I still wonder that anyone can write this well. It's not the turns of phrase or any inbuilt sense of "importance", it's the magnetism of the story and the completeness of it. How many writers can REALLY fuse people, landscape, narrative, the elements and religious philosophy together like this. Precious few. Read this book!

The Sea, The Sea
I started reading The Sea, The Sea, and halfway through, my boyfriend left it on a plane. I couldn't find another copy for almost a year, but meanwhile I read some of Murdoch's other novels, which I enjoyed. I've now read about 10 of her books, and The Sea, The Sea was by far the best-written and most moving. Murdoch closely scrutinized the minutiae of everyday life and managed to make it beautiful and worthy of consideration and appreciation. After finishing this book, I was unable to read her other novels for a while, because I thought so highly of it, but luckily I'm over that now. This novel may not appeal to some because Charles can be an infuriating and unsympathetic narrator, but ultimately his pure intentions redeem his extreme actions.

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