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.
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