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0360 | The Bell | Iris Murdoch

0360 | The Bell | Iris Murdoch

Context: Mrs Arukiyomi started looking after the lovely Tikvah a couple of days a week while I was reading this.


A long while ago, I read Under the Net and it went completely over my head. Didn’t much enjoy it. One good thing about reading from a list is that you are forced to return to authors you didn’t like initially and then realise are so versatile that you can enjoy them, even if you don’t appreciate every one of their works. That’s exactly what happened with The Bell, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

What starts out as a description of a failed marriage takes a different turn when Dora returns to her husband who is now working at a country house that contains a abbey that contains a bell…. or at least it used to contain a bell. The original bell is rumoured to have been lost in the lake and the plan is to replace it with a modern reproduction.

As the story wends it’s way towards the ceremony of the replacement bell, it heightens to a dramatic climax and, as this happens, the plot thickens incredibly as the characters reveal themselves to be more and more complex. And while everyone else implodes around her, Dora kind of sails through unscathed. Exactly how is a bit of a mystery. I thought she’d be dead long before the end.

The characters really made this story for me. Yes, there was suspense. But it was the effect of the strain on each character that made this a really enjoyable novel. It’s not one of her best, apparently, but it was a lot more accessible to me than Under the Net and so a good starting point for her work, I think.


Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him.


Then he took from his pocket other toys made of wood and metal, and reproduced in turn the song of the skylark, the curlew, the willow warbler, the turtle dove, and the nightingale. Dora was enchanted. She demanded to see and to try, seizing the small objects from Peter with little cries and self-conscious feminine twittering. Michael observing her thought she epitomized everything he didn’t care for about women; but he thought this detachment, liking her all the same, and feeling too good-tempered at present to feel distaste for anyone.

“It’s as good as the real thing!” cried Dora.

“Nothing’s as good as the real thing,” said Peter, “It’s odd that even a perfect imitation, as soon as you know it’s an imitation, gives much less pleasure. I remember Kant says how disappointed your guests are when they discover that they after-dinner nightingale is a small boy posted in the grove.”

“A case of the natural attractiveness of the truth,” said Michael.

“You’re full of pious remarks today, isn’t he?” said Peter. “You must be practising for your sermon tomorrow.”


She had survived.


0360 | The Bell | Murdoch | 77% | Very Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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