My favourite Iris Murdoch book
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No 3 - yes, I would think it's a good one to start with, or you can start at the beginning with Under The Net, which is amusing and quite slight, but does include, actually, a lot of her themes that are developed in later books.
I just finished the nice and the good and am now reading An unofficial rose. I thought the nice and the good was a fun romp through the english countryside, in the family of an upper civil servant, but it was not believable.
I can't imagine all those characters living in such close proximity to someone else's life.Also, Octavian's marriage was not believable either. If he was so unnattractive, how come his wife was mad about him?
I'd take maybe an early, a mid and a late one.
A Severed Head is playful, full of Murdochian characters and her ideas on psychoanalysis
The Philosopher's Pupil is about philosophy, life and community
The Book And The Brotherhood is about politics, education, Murdochian characters again...
It depends what you want to discuss really... what themes in particular etc. Do let us know how you get on!
THe Black Prince
everyone else in my reading group disliked the Black Prince but the interesting thing is that both it and The Sea have a male main character around whom all the action centres... so an interesting contrast.
What aspects of The Bell did you like or dislike?
Sea won the Booker Prize so that might be a good recommendation...
Come back and let us know what you think of whichever you read!
as for what aspects of the Bell did I like or dislike; it is a great deep work that dipicts the dilmma of the human being, this vulnerable/frail creature, in a world governed by rules and codes, and religious absolutes and ideals; in a world where the need to love and be loved is a vital aspect in the human life (Maslow's hierarchy of needs).
Dame Iris was creative in showing the conflicts between the 'Id' and the 'super-ego', and the necessity of poeple to be in compliance with the religious instruction and social codes, otherwise the person would pay so muhc.
The price to express freely once emotions, love, and orientation is very high, although in our post-modern times, things seem to be improving.
Ed to correct Touchstones - I get so annoyed when The Bell comes up as Plath's The Bell Jar and The Sea, The Sea as Banville's The Sea - both much inferior books IMO.
Let us know how you find The Sea The Sea - I and my Other Half are about to start reading it (re-reading in my case), me for my little online book group which is reading through all the books in chronological order, him because I am so widely read but still rate IM above all other novelists and he thought he ought to find out why (after 9 years together!!)
thanks for your advice; however, 30 minutes ago, I've started The Sea, The Sea, and it captured me from the begining.. looking forward to discuss it with you.
however, I'll get A Severed Head, and read it after the Sea, The Sea, then, I'll go for the Book and The brotherhood.
on the other hand, it is really great to read a good book with one's half, I wish you a great time, and an enjoyable reading.
One of my favourites has not been mentioned: A Word Child. I just re-read it after more than a decade and was again entranced by it. For those who do not know it, it's a melodramatic romantic farcical tragedy (at least that's the best way I can describe it!) and if that sounds terrible, you should try it.
I also enjoyed The Sea, The Sea very much, though was not so moved by The Bell which I read when I was 16 and was perhaps too young to appreciate. I will try one of the others mentioned here.
I think any of her works are odd to read as a teenager - I have said before, i don't know what I got out of A Severed Head at 15!! So maybe worth giving it another go...
Do let us know what other ones you read and what you think of them!
I've just finished re-reading The Philosopher's Pupil and can confirm that it's still my favourite! The others in my reading group have got a bit hung up on all the philosophy - but, like some of the other characters, I let it wash over me when I need to, and see it as contributing to the texture of the book.
Oh - I'm very excited as I'm going to the Iris Murdoch Society Conference in September! Just picking what sessions to attend now!
I remember a while ago reading an Iris Murdoch book, don't remember which, and I avoided Iris ever since. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and the emotion was slightly violent.
Well, this year I braved The Word Child (a violent child redeemed by words? as if i wouldn't try it) - and in the beginning I was saying: "But no, she's pretty darned good, what was I on about?" Enjoying myself immensely with her description, wordplay and sarcastic characters. (she does have very precise language, as per this thread above someone said.) But you know, I finished it and again I'm left with that bitter taste. It's just TOO MUCH, lays it on so thick, the monstrous ego of the man. The so many entanglements of everyone. It just all so selfish, melodramatic, unnecessary. Luxuriating in misery.
So I am not one to give up easily. Just what am I missing? How can we have such polar reactions? Why do I feel like she gives me the world and then pulls the rug out from under me? I headed to this thread to see why people like her, but perhaps someone could suggest some sites/further reading? I really do want to get to the bottom of this.
I'll have to pick up a copy of The Philosopher's Pupil too, by the sounds of it ;)
I also read the quite brilliant The Magus by John Fowles last year and wanted to point out that I saw many similarities between this novel and some of Iris Murdoch's work. I wonder who was influencing who (if at all)?
Part of the reason I love IM is her wonderful descriptive powers.
This thread extends back to 2007! I hope it remains active so that I will be able to take part in the conversation going forward into the future. Thank you, all.
I did not particularly like The Philosopher's Pupil. It has never been a requirement of mine to like all the characters in a novel in order to enjoy it. That said, I pretty much hated all of the people in Ennistone. You have to agree that George is awful from the first time he opens his mouth. He is not only abusive and narcissistic but continually whines and feels sorry for himself. I kept wondering for many pages if he was a minor or major figure. Even very late into the book, I considered that perhaps, Father Bernard was really the “Philosopher's Pupil” referred to in the title. I believe that the conversation between the priest and John Robert was far more interesting than any of the exchanges between John Robert and George. The Philosopher himself, turned out to be a big self-aggrandizing molester who in death was described as looking like a flabby fleshy Darth Vader sort of thing. He was apparently quite obsessed with moral systems while behaving as a bully to everyone he came into contact with. The McCaffery Family had very little charm. Stella’s behavior after being nearly killed and then continually abused by her husband was incomprehensible. Tom had a big role, but his “goody-goody” personality was tiring. The big party at Slipper House, after much build up, was extremely tame. It climaxed in a dispersal by hi-pitched singing. I dunno. I scratched my head a lot in this book. I found the opening history of Ennistone to be slow going indeed. The gypsy angle never seemed to amount to anything. I think I’m making it sound a lot worse that it was. I did enjoy certain scenes. Pearl’s speech to JR as he took Hattie away got my attention. In fact, I think Pearl was my favorite character along with the heretic Priest. (But how could Pearl be in love with John Robert?) I found the almost-omniscient narrator, “N” to be a bit snooty. Honestly, how could anyone who felt regard for Stella, not have called the cops on George? (I know, I know that would have caused the book to stall, but how can you condone it?)
I suppose you could say, The Philosopher’s Pupil was not intended to be realistic. It is symbolic and magical perhaps. It is a morality play... It is an exercise in proving the uselessness of philosophy. It is also very long.
Which IM books have I read so far? They are, from my favorite to least-favorite: The Sea, the Sea, A Word Child, The Green Knight, The Good Apprentice, Under the Net, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, The Philosopher’s Pupil. I may read the Book and the Brotherhood next, as I seem to be gravitating to her later works. I look forward to reading many of your future comments on this “Talk,” if in fact I am really posting here (!)
The Sea, the Sea was my first IM and I almost can't say why I kept on reading her work except that I was determined I would. The Bell came next and I loved it and haven't looked back since. The Severed Head was a bit too glittery and contrived for me, but amusing. I haven't read The Philosopher's Pupil yet. Another that I loved was The Sandcastle and I was also very taken up with The individual book threads have comments as I am reading, and I'm always hoping others will add their own as they or read or make new threads for any books I haven't yet gotten to.
I've also read The Nice and the Good, An Unofficial Rose, The Good Apprentice, The Book and the Brotherhood, and Message to the Planet, The Green Knight.
I very much liked The Good Apprentice and The Green Knight. I like the novels with children in them - the contrast between genuine innocence of a child and the dangerous innocence of the adult (Iris does seem to come down definitively on that point, the dangerousness of prolonged, willful innocence - can lead to permitting, allowing, condoning, etc. great evil. Message to the Planet was one of the darker books, but is really sticking with me!
Basically each book, it seems to me, turns on some aspect of the many ways people can be swept towards good and evil behaviour and outcomes. Such a sure touch! She amazes me more and more with every book I read. The sea is almost always present and is a sort of obvious uber metaphor I guess for the fact that in many ways humans are in the grip of something so much bigger than themselves that it is a wonder we do as well as we do. I love her houses too, I just treasure them!
I'm thrilled you've turned up, by the way, to get me thinking in a Murdochian direction again.
Water is huge in her work. And houses. I'm so happy to see you all over here! There is a good long thread for TS,TS, Ellen.
We have LyzzyBee here too, a resident expert who even goes to IM conferences and writes papers on IM! TS,TS
Here is the link to A Word Child