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0407 | The Nice and the Good | Iris Murdoch

0407 | The Nice and the Good | Iris Murdoch

Context: Started this ages ago when we were in Australia and enjoying baths with views like this!

I’m not getting on too well with Iris Murdoch. Under the Net went pretty much over my head. The Bell was a good read. And this one falls somewhere in between. It had moments when I was glad I was reading it. Whole chapters even. But, on the whole, I found myself labouring through it and counting how many pages I had to go.

It begins well enough. I thought we were going to plunge right into a murder-mystery within the halls of a government department. But soon were were at some house in the country with what seemed like a commune of characters I couldn’t keep track of. There are various love triangles and not a few sex triangles. In fact, it seems she had a hard time keeping any of her characters out of bed at all.

The novel jumped around a bit too much for my liking. I wasn’t sure until about halfway through who I was really supposed to be focussing on. And, apart from a rather well-written piece involving a cave at high tide, I wasn’t really captivated at any point.

This was nominated for the Booker Prize so that got me thinking as to why. Usually, Booker Prize winners have deeply drawn characters who suffer a variety of inner and outer conflicts. And, so it proves: Ducane is just such a character. You feel his conflict as he leads a double life for most of the novel. The others though didn’t really move from 2D to 3D for me.

All in all, this is not one of her best I don’t think. Read The Bell instead.


A head of department, working quietly in his room in Whitehall on a summer afternoon, is not accustomed to being disturbed by the nearby and indubitable sound of a revolver shot.


Ducane really did not think that, whatever Mrs McGrath might have said to her husband, there was any serious trouble McGrath could make for him. But it was the sort of thing which simply ought not to happen. More deeply he felt in retrospect depressed by the scene, as if some sleepy drug which he had swallowed with the pink wine were weighting on his senses still.

Perhaps it was out of the somnolent ennui of the Circean chamber where Mrs McGrath waited that there had followed him away that sense of pointlessness which now so much took away his strength.

The car was moving, more quickly now, along the Old Brompton Road in the direction of Ducane’s house in Earls Court. While these gloomy and debilitating thoughts had been occupying his mind, Ducane had been exchanging almost unconscious chat with Fivey about the weather and the predicated continuation of the ‘heat wave’.


Hand in hand the children began to run homeward through the soft warm drizzle.


0407 | The Nice and the Good | Murdoch | 52% | Okay

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

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