The Nice and the Good

SnakIris Murdoch readers

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The Nice and the Good

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jun 7, 2013, 11:34 am

I intend to read this one in June - but I confess I haven't yet begun.

jun 11, 2013, 1:21 pm

I'm eagerly waiting to hear what you have to say about this one (published in 1968?). There's a NYT book review that says this is her "best, most exciting and most successful book." It even goes so far as to say that for 2/3 of the book, it's un-put-downable.

Oh--haha. "There are 20 major characters, including a dog and a cat who are germane to the action." The scene is London and the Dorset coast and a "large, complicated household"--with members of three families.

This sounds like one you'll have fun with.

jun 11, 2013, 8:47 pm

I've read a little of it - starts with a bang - literally. I have put it down but only to finish some other things and I can already tell it is a 'good' Murdoch.

Redigeret: jun 16, 2013, 7:34 am

Around page 100 - this is an impressive Murdoch, readable with characters just sympathetic enough to make it ok that they are also playing out a philosophical question - what is 'being nice', what is 'being good' - and good as an adjective in all its modes.

The name "Radeechy" for example: root, cause (radice, latin/italian). He sets everything in motion by killing himself. The Grays are the 'nice and good' couple who are so welcoming to others.... is goodness part of character? circumstances? Consider their name. Conversely can you experience enough 'bad and evil' to annihilate, in a way, all distinctions (Willy Kost in the cottage endured Dachau). Kost/cost. One of the characters, Jessica, strikes me as being (possibly) an older and sadder version of the charming and feckless Dora from The Bell. There is a terrifying emptiness to Jessica - she has no morals, ethics, understanding of religious principles - in a way she is innocent, but I feel there is already an implication that this innocence is dangerous in ignorance.

I wish the print was bigger in this edition. I know it is slowing me down considerably. I've been paying a little more for better editions when I have the choice and now I remember why......

jun 16, 2013, 11:06 am

Back to add that I think this book is showing Iris really at the 'top of her game' with elements of both the 'dark' and 'light' novels present, but mixed in a very balanced way.

Redigeret: jun 16, 2013, 12:47 pm

>4 sibylline:.5. Sib, your comments always suck me in--I'd like to read this one, but I'm already reading about five different books (well, seven). Oh woe.

jun 16, 2013, 1:13 pm

I'm really enjoying your comments about this book. It has so many typical Murdochian characteristics but does stand up as a good read as well as a meaningful one.

Redigeret: jun 16, 2013, 6:10 pm

Ooooo seven, that's bad. I think I only have three going - and one of those I've had to put down while I read this IM as they are too similar (although not really, but just enough) and one audiobook..... I always feel those 'don't count'. Actually the third book is The Night Circus which I've read 20 pages of and already love so much I'm saving it for next week when I'm at my sister's......

Thank you both for your responses.

Redigeret: jun 19, 2013, 2:34 pm


Here is what I have written so far:

"The point is that nothing matters except loving what is good. Not to look at evil but to look at good....In the light of the good, evil can be seen in its place, not owned, just existing, in its place."
Thus one of the characters, old Uncle Theo, reasons, toward the close of the novel in which almost all the characters come up against their own limitations, the limits of 'niceness', the creeping devastations of evil - from the petty rationalizing of one's own bad behavior to larger and more serious infractions - all circling around self-absorption. What makes this novel work is that the characters, while playing out Murdoch's explorations of human behaviour, are virtually all believable and likeable. I didn't 'like' all the characters, but I felt some compassion for all of them. One interesting twist is that Iris makes it clear that she emphatically does not believe that all people are created the same. Some are endowed with an internal moral compass, a penchant for 'the good' and some simply are not. Yet in their weakness and frailty they are human and worthy of compassion. I actually, for the first time, truly loved a character - John Ducane - and that was a great pleasure and even a relief! As with The Sandcastle, the novel's crisis is focussed around an incident of great danger - requiring courage and fortitude - and this was deftly done, I was on the edge of my seat and felt very emotionally involved. ****1/2

I'd like to come back later and add some choice quotes and other reflections as they bubble up. Such a contrast between the 'happy' and 'sad' IM's!

apr 12, 2015, 3:00 pm

I'm just starting The Nice and The Good. I've read a lot of her others and several biographies including Conradi's. I highly recommend the latter.

apr 12, 2015, 5:49 pm

I have it languishing on my biography shelf, of course!

apr 13, 2015, 4:00 am

It is really worth reading and has added an enormous amount to my reading of her novels. Her schooling in particular is fascinating!

feb 6, 2017, 4:35 pm

Two years since anybody mentioned reading this???
I've just started, so I'm not reading past your first post, Lucy, but I am intrigued by the names and your take on them. Very helpful! I'll be back!!!
I've always thought nice such an insipid, easy adjective. I'm happy to follow IM where she wants me to go.

Redigeret: feb 7, 2017, 1:10 pm

So happy to see someone over here!

(Note I did not write, So NICE to see someone over here.)