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  1. I have just started this book having finished Love for Lydia by H.E. Bates only yesterday. Although the two novels are very different, both language and story, they were both written in the mid 20th century. This may seem daft, I am no great expert on literature, but they do have the same feel about them. It was obvious from the very beginning of the novels that neither of them were modern novels and yet they do not contain the type of language or are written in the style of most of the 19th century literature that I have read. It seems that no matter how different the style or language used any novel carries a flavour of the time in which it is written as much as the time in which it is set. That all said I am beginning to enjoy the book. It is not going to be an easy read as Murdoch seems to like to explore the thoughts and feelings of each character as well as telling the story. The story has taken place in two places so far, Whitehall and Dorset. Although some of the characters are different in each setting some do appear in both settings but the main character appears to be John Ducane a Whitehall civil servant. He is a complicated character and a deep thinker and has been given the task of heading an internal enquiry into a suicide of a colleague. So far there has been a real feeling off the sixties about the book when I blieve it to have been set. This has not been stated that is just my guess. Although seemingly quite light-heartedly written so far I suspect that the story will take a sinister turn at some stage.
  2. Just this minute finished this book, and feel quite drained as a result. Very powerful story, lots going on at many levels - probably more than i have actually realised. its about a lay community - mixed bag of very interesting people - who are preparing for the arrival of a new bell which will be installed. Two of the community find the old bell at the bottom of a lake and try to swap the new bell for the old as a 'miracle'. It all sounds a bit odd and possibly rather dry. However, I was hooked from the word go. The complexities of the people are such that the plot drives forward at a pace that gets steadily more urgent. its not a particularly long book, but each chapter resonates and as such is not a book that one can skim. Very worth reading, and one that i will re read.
  3. Iris Murdoch was a professional philosopher as well as a highly prolific novelist: the way this is generally put in relation to her fiction is that you don't have to know anything about philosophy to appreciate her novels, but that it helps the reader to understand them on a deeper level. Yet, re-reading The Philosopher's Pupil twenty-five years it was published, I couldn't help feeling that the philosophical bits might very well discourage people, rather than being a potential source of greater understanding. The titles of some Murdoch novels have, at the very least, philosophical undertones [An Accidental Man, The Nice And The Good], but the title of The Philosopher's Pupil directly announces both philosophy and its dissemination. The pupil, George McCaffrey, is introduced first: a violent, impulsive man, prey to all sorts of demons, of which the main one transpires to be the humiliation of having been advised by the philosopher, John Robert Rozanov, to abandon all hope of being a successful philosopher himself. The novel might easily have been entitled "The Return of the Philosopher": Rozanov indeed returns to his home-town of Ennistone, a spa town perhaps inspired by Bath, and proceeds to cause ructions in various ways. A tightly knit cast of characters sets the novel in typically incestuous Murdoch territory: George has a younger brother, Brian, but also a very much (as in twenty-four years) younger brother, Tom, the product of a liaison between George and Brian's father and one Feckless Fiona, but nevertheless brought up by George and Brian's mother, Alex, following Fiona's death. The male trio is paralleled by a rather mysterious female trio, Pearl, Ruby and Diamond, aka Diane, who may be cousins, or else, in some obscurely illegitimate way, sisters, or, more likely, half-sisters... Tom comes home from university in London with a friend called Emmanuel, aka Emma, with whom he ends up in bed. But Emma also ends up in bed with Pearl, who has been hired by Rozanov as lady's maid to his granddaughter Hattie, who arrives fresh from a chaotic adolescence in the United States. While Diane is both a prostitute and George's on-and-off mistress... Throw in, for more than good measure, an agnostic priest, Father Bernard, and various friends, neighbours and hangers-on. The sponaneity of human feelings and desires is, as always chez Murdoch, given free rein: throwing the characters into bed with one another is perhaps the easiest way of revealing those desires - but Murdoch never, either here or in her other novels, dwells on the mechanics of sexuality per se, which always functions as a way of both signalling and communicating more abstract feelings. And, in a way, it is more convenient than dialogue. When the dialogue takes over, things can get very, very seriously bogged down. As here, between the philosopher and the pupil: Heavy going. And here's the philosopher and the hapless granddaughter: Murdoch infamously used to refuse to change the slightest comma in her work, let alone have anything edited out. But such excerpts from the dialogues - which go on for pages - suggest she might at least sometimes have heeded her publisher's advice in this respect. Like all of her novels, The Philosopher's Pupil is decidedly very far removed indeed from social realism. Ordinary people's lives are just as conspicuously absent here as they are from the novels of Virginia Woolf. Her fiction in general is very clearly the product of a highly, and perhaps excessively, intellectualised approach to life. But she is a brilliant observer of people's often pitiful attempts to make sense of lives and destinies over which they only have very partial control. ****
  4. This is the first book that I've actually laughted out loud at. I love the style of writing its like a weaving together of words in a most natural way..plus there are times I have to stop reading and think about what has just been said...all in all a very satisfying read.
  5. Well, I am not sure I am doing this right. I have never made the "first" post at a thread. I nominated this book and three people voted for it so I "guess" we will read it. I voted for The Great Gatsby so I will also be reading that book. Has anyone else read any other books by Iris Murdoch? Or have you already read The Sea, The Sea. It is a pretty good size book. About 500 pages or more I think. Do you have the book already or will you need sometime to get it? Do you want to set a date for discussion? Please let me know. Trudy
  6. What did you think of the ending of the book?? I was a bit puzzled and unsure about it. I was expecting some sort of dramatic climax, I guess, though unsure as to what it might be. So I was surprised when it just of muddled about for a bit and drifted off very gently. I guess it was a hopeful ending. Charles seems to have come to some sort of acceptance of his own past and no longer be driven by whatever internal demons were compelling him onwards. He seemed happy to let others do their own thing, rather than needing things to revolve around himself so much.... Still not sure about it though. Did anyone else find it satisfying, or disappointing?
  7. Just wondering what you think of Charles' method of 'convincing' Heartley to leave her husband for him. I was extremely annoyed about how he went about it. I felt he didn't give her enough time, forcing himself on her and saying things like 'you belong to me now'. He never listened to what she had to say, when she said he didn't understand he talked over it and he ignored her saying she wanted to return to Ben. It seems to me that this behaviour is an illustration of Charles' arrogance. He may truly love Heartley, but he is also driven by a desire for power and to get what he wants. If he loved Heartley in a true, altruistic way, he would allow her to follow her own course. On the other hand it may be argued (as Charles does himself) that Heartley would never leave Ben if she was only shown the door, she had to be dragged through it if she was ever going to leave.
  8. Anyone interested in giving this question a go....(borrowed by Winterwren from an online readers guide, I think) Likely to be spoilers, I suspect, if anyone hasn't finished reading the book yet A very daunting set of questions, I think, but maybe we could nibble away at different aspects of them, between us. I actually felt the book was more focussed on the nature of marriage, rather than the nature of women. There was a lot of small comments here and there from different characters about how marriage is a mystery, and no-one can tell from the outside whether it works or not, or whether it is happy or not. Charles on his drunken night out with Peregrine in London spent some time discussing the marriages of certain friends and speculating on how happy or otherwise they were. He seemed to take great satisfaction in deciding that most of them weren't. Plus his apparently very deliberate acts to break up Peregrine's marriage with Rosina - the impression I got was that he did that much more because he resented their relationship, rather than because he actually wanted Rosina for himself. And Hartley, somehow, mysteriously, wanting to stay in her marriage, despite it's apparent misery (in Charles judgement, as least) - a very mysterious marriage, and yet somehow it seemed to work for the two of them within it. Is Hartley free?? I guess so, yes. Free to choose to remain with Ben, despite Charles efforts.... (I'm not really answering the original questions at all am I! Never mind - I'm interested in any comments the rest of you have, all the same)
  9. These questions are taken from the Reading Guides site. 1. Charles's house, Shruff End, is in many ways a character in its own right. Intricately described, the house is explicitly referred to as gloomy and cave-like and can in many ways stand as a metaphor for Charles's own mind. What are some of the ways that events and features in Shruff End indicate Charles's mental state?
  10. I've just come to the end of the Pre-History section of the book. Maybe not a very literary question - but, do you like the narrator, Charles Arrowby? I guess there's two aspects of that. Do you think you would warm to him as a person, if he was real, and you met him? And, how well does he work, within the book, at making you want to keep reading? Is he an effective "voice"? In most books told in the first person, I tend to warm to the narrator, whoever they are, it's just my natural reaction - (do other people find that too?) - but it's been quite an interesting experience to read the first section of this book, with really mixed feelings about the narrator. I found myself trying to like him - I appreciated his attempts at honesty about himself and his own awareness that he was unreliable narrator, even while he tried not to be. But having read Lizzie's letter, which moved me by it's struggle to be truthful about her love - his reaction to it as being from a "silly inconsistent woman" made me want to slap him and I was much more ambivalent about him from that point onwards. (He certainly works well, to make me want to keep reading, by the way - I'm really enjoying this book ) What does anyone else think of him?
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