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Pre-History - Do You Like Him?

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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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Loved your post!!!


Isn't Charles just too much? I totally understand and agree with what you are saying about him. He is SUCH a theater person - a regular drama king.


And I love Shruff End!!! What an interesting and great setting!


One of the things that I really like about Murdoch's writing is that for me every 'scene' is so visible. I keep thinking how her stories would make a great movie or play. I think that is true of this one also.


I am glad you are enjoying it. I had better get busy and catch up with you. I have been reading just a little of this while reading other things because I wasn't sure when everyone was going to start on it.

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Shruff End is almost a character in it's own right, isn't it. Definitely a house with personality.


I struggle to understand why Charles has had so many women apparently so devoted to him :confused: To me he doesn't seem to have that sort of charisma at all - but maybe that's because we're seeing him more from the inside, as he sees himself - rather than as an influential, talented, powerful theatre director, in his natural element. I don't know....


One of the things I'm loving is that I have absolutely no idea where the book might be going. Most books you feel as if you can see the rough shape of the ending from earlyish on - even if you can't predict quite how they are going to get there.


Now that I'm a little further on into the History bit of the book, and Charles's relationships have got somewhat more, er, complex....(see, no spoiler!! ;) ), I just haven't got a clue how the whole situation will get resolved - or even if it will get resolved.


And the characters are so complex and many layered and unpredictable - I can't read too much of it in a sitting, it's just too much to take in!


Wonderful, wonderful stuff!!

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I have to say I didn't find Charles particularly unlikeable (in the pre-history, I've already got a bit further). He seemed intelligent and with true feeling, and I can understand his desire to get away from things. I can imagine that women were attracted to him, because he probably always remained friendly at some level, though not enough to be really accessible, which can be attractive to certain women.


I did get very annoyed with him in the first few pages, when he was umming and ah-ing about starting his journal/book, and how to do it. I almost found myself yelling 'get on with it!'. The style was somewhat dithery, and took me some time to get used to.


So far unfortunately I'm not enjoying the book as much as you two. There is so much detail which is detracting from the narrative (though it does get better later on, I'm getting into it now). I guess it's just not my kind of thing, I can certainly see why others have loved it.

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I do agree with you about the very beginning. I almost abandoned the book half way through the first paragraph, as it was just chock full of wordy description, apparently written in the third person - which rarely grabs me at all. I just about crawled, gasping, to the second paragraph and discovered that what I was reading was the narrator's attempts at autobiography, and decided I might give it a chance. (Glad I did ;) )


Hope you continue to find that it improves as it goes on :)

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