0113 | Under the Net – Iris Murdoch

Context: Read most of this in the forest at the end of my mum’s garden in Portugal.

Sometimes I read a book, get to the end and wonder why the author wrote it. Iris Murdoch presented my sister with her degree it turns out and, if I ever meet her myself, I’d like her to present me with a reason why she wrote this novel.

It was her first and, on the strength of it, I’m surprised she went on to do as well as she did. Mind you, Woolf started with The Voyage Out so there’s hope for us all.

The story turns full circle which, in itself, is a bit frustrating. Even the narrator comments on this at the end. There are a few slapstick episodes of humour interspersed with some bits of amateur philosophy. On the whole though, I didn’t think these work well in the 21st century. They must have been wonderful in 1954 though.

The book made me chuckle in a few places simple because Murdoch does have a way with idioms. “A liquid slit in a warm expanse of brown fur” is a cat’s eye, for example. But it was the characters themselves which I found a bit shallow.

It was like a more fleshed out version of Vile Bodies meets One the Road crossed with Catcher in the Rye. The women were forever saying “darling” and “divine” while the men had golden opportunities to better themselves and wasted them time after time. In fact, the narrator was a likeable combination of Holden Caulfield and Dean Moriarty if such a thing is possible.

So, disappointing on the whole and, as there are three more of hers to read on the 1001 list, I’m hoping for more from those.

When I saw Finn waiting for me at the corner of the street I knew at once that something had gone wrong.


It’s easier to sell junk when you’re known than works of genius when you’re unknown.

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  1. I would agree with the way you started with this review but not with the way you carried out. I think sometimes, authors have reason not to enunciate. I believe a lot of us would agree that explanation and / or detail more often than not kill what is so beautiful if subtle.

    If you can remember the part where the protagonist has a conversation with his friend in the hospital, I guess that describes the ‘idea’ behind the book. The one sentence that justified the book to me was – “The problem with you is that you are always expecting something.”

    There are a lot of us who at some point in our lives have faced the physocological turmoil of a debate between idea and action. I think this book describes, in action, the failure of a man stuck with ideas. The permanent existential crisis of a man who expects life to be extraordinary.

  2. that’s what I like about blogging books and I wish I had more of it: feedback on my reviews so I can learn something.

    Thanks for taking the time BookCrazy because it sure helped me to open my mind a bit to what Murdoch was writing about. I too (don’t we all) have issues with action v ideas at times in my life. I say that though and admit that I really wanted to give the narrator a kick up the a** because he did just deliberate all the time.

    I for one like ideas to lead to action at least in the medium if not the short term!

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