Gertrude has lost her husband and Anne, an ex-nun, her God. They plan to live together and do good works. Polish exile and imaginary soldier, the 'Count' watches over Gertrude with loving patience. An accomplished scrounger and failed painter, Tim is a different sort of soldier. He plans, with his eccentric mistress Daisy, to live off rich friends. Who will judge whom in this rich and riveting story? Who will act nobly, and who will act basely? Who will be lucky?
About the Author
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to Badminton School, Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. During the war she was an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, and then worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium and Austria. She held a studentship in Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and then in 1948 she returned to Oxford where she became a Fellow of St Anne's College. Until her death in February 1999, she lived with her husband, and teacher and critic John Bayley, in Oxford. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours List. In the 1997 PEN Awards she received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Since her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net, Iris Murdoch has written twenty-six novels, including the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978) and most recently The Green Knight (1993) and Jackson's Dilemma 91995). Other literary awards include the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her works of philosophy include Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992) and Existentialists and Mystics (1997). She has written several plays including The Italian Girl (with James Saunders) and The Black Prince, adapted from her novel of the same name. Her volume of poetry, A Year of Birds, which appeared in 1978, has been set to music by Malcolm Williamson.
Murdoch's latest: another difficult, antically crannied study of worrying, worrisome beings who burden and manage to hobble one another with outsize love and regard. Thirty-ish, luxuriously handsome Gertrude is devastated by the cancer death of her adored husband Guy, the respected pater familias of an upper-middle-class London banking clan: their union was one of "close bonds of love and intelligence," shorn of sentiment or self-indulgent excess. And attending Gertrude in her mourning, like supporting angels at a saint's ascension, are two "noble souls" - one knightly, the other nunnish. There's "the Count" (really the non-noble, lonely, shriving son of an exiled Polish patriot), whose love for Gertrude is his "secret center" and who suffers with "the frustrated fantasy of heroism." And there is Anne, Gertrude's old friend, whose desire for a quiet mind led her into a convent; her searching spirituality eventually led her out, however, and now she is "honored" to be seeing Gertrude through dark days. But both the Count and Anne will be on the rack when Gertrude - as if under the spell of May in rural France - falls into passionate love with Tim, a childlike painter of minor talents who (unbeknownst to Gertrude) has been leading a drab, messy, satisfying pad-and-pub existence with floundering painter/writer Daisy. Gertrude will even marry Tim - which results in the dismay of Guy's family (they're also titillated), the Count's despair (he considers an honorable suicide), and an epiphany for Anne: to her horror she discovers that she has a passionate attachment to the Count, a state heated further by Anne's kitchen vision of Christ. Still, Anne feels she must pass on to Gertrude anonymous information about Tim's Daisy alliance - and raging Gertrude then banishes poor Tim (who has already parted from Daisy in a tender abnegation). Finally, however, Tim blunders home; Gertrude, coming to grips with Guy's ghost, welcomes Tim back with joy; the Count gives up his torturing hope at last, happy in a pure love unsullied by consummation; and Anne, who has never confessed her misery-making earthly love for the (bunt, is homeless but spiritually free. As usual, Murdoch expands a possibly minor romantic tangle into a dense, knotty web of intellect and emotion - with meticulous (often exasperating) prose, symbolic scenery (sinister rushing water is a favorite), and a slippery tension between high seriousness (the weighty matter of sacred love vs. profane) and shrewd, cutting-down-to-size irony. Not Murdoch at her best, perhaps, but a generous serving of her characteristic themes and intricate devices. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: Vintage classics
Number Of Pages: 528
Published: 5th July 2001
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 13.2 x 3.5
Weight (kg): 0.366