The last of Iris Murdoch's novels, Jackson's Dilemma was written while Iris Murdoch was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. This is not a novel to introduce someone to Iris Murdoch with, it is a weak example of her ability. This novel, for me – while certainly interesting, marks a sad end to a brilliant career. It is a tragedy that someone whose writing has been lauded by so many should finish their writing career with a whimper rather than going out in a blaze of literary glory. There are moments however where it is obvious that the clouds lifted for a while, and it is still possible to see the gifted writer she was. Overall – a poignant read for any fan of Iris Murdoch. This was the last read in our Murdoch reading challenge- phew – what a mammoth challenge it was. Very enjoyable – and a project I have been very pleased to be a part of.
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Synopsis This is Iris Murdoch`s 24th novel. For years Alfred Ludens pursues Professor Marcus Vallar, certain that Marcus possesses a secret fundamental to the human condition. But is Marcus a genius, or is he a madman? Or perhaps a saint? What Ludens discovers is certainly not what he expects. I must admit this one is nowhere near being one of my favorites although I did enjoy it overall. There were however things that annoyed me or that I found tedious. This is a big novel, with many recognisable Murdoch themes. Obsession, religion, love and death among them. Alfred Ludens has been obsessed with Marcus Valler for years, Marcus missing for years is discovered. and Ludens sets out to being him back to London and to lift a curse from an Irishman who, believing the curse to be real, is dying. Later following what is viewed as a miracle, the charcters descend upon Wiltshire, and a peculiar psychiatric hospital, where we encounter The Stone people, and the mysterious Dr Marzillian. Luden's friend Jack, an artist, has a wife and a mistress and is attempting to unite them all in a domestic menage a trois. Marcus has a daughter Irina – who Luden's wants to look after. The story is a good one and that is what kept me going – but I disliked many of the characters, became irritated with others, and some of the long philisophical discussions became a little tedious at times.
From Amazon Many years ago Gerard Hernshaw and his friends 'commissioned' one of their number to write a political book. Time passes and opinions change. 'Why should we go on supporting a book which we detest?' Rose Curtland asks. 'The brotherhood of Western intellectuals versus the book of history,' Jenkin Riderhood suggests. The theft of a wife further embroils the situation. Moral indignation must be separated from political disagreement. Tamar Hernshaw has a different rouble and a terrible secret. Can one die of shame? In another quarter a suicide pact seems the solution. Duncan Cambus thinks that since it is a tragedy, someone must die. Someone dies. Rose, who has gone on loving without hope, at least deserves a reward. The 23rd Iris Murdoch novel, and so the 23rd book of the Murdoch a month Challenge undertaken by a small group of us. Although we are now reading them every other month as the books have got quite large. This one at about 600 pages is pretty meaty. The book opens with a party at an Oxford college – a group of friends many of them former students of that college are present. Past and present seem to collide that evening, the effects of which are felt by the characters and the reader throughout the rest of the book. There is a rather sad and yet marvellous bit about a parrot, and a truly marvellous bit about a snail. Partners change – as they usually do in a Murdoch novel, someone dies, and a book is written. I thought this one to be a very enjoyable read, quite engrossing, with plenty of the usual Murdoch themes, and complicated stuff about philosophy. I won’t say too much more here – as my Murdocian friends haven’t started this one yet I don’t think – I only went and started it a week early : )
I enjoyed this Iris Murdoch novel – the 22nd read in the Murdoch challenge- although I think it is a little over long. I really liked poor old Edward, and sort of liked Stuart although he isn't such a presence in the novel. After the death of his friend, Edward is in a terrible state – guilt and self hatred drive him away from his home. He arrives at the home of his natural father whom he hasn't seen since childhood. Here he finds a rather different way of living, an almost monastic household, here Edward lives for a time with Mother May – his stepmother, and his two half sisters Bettina and Ilona. He discovers his father is an invalid, but is quickly convinced that his father loves him. As is so often the case with IM I disliked her female characters – with the exeption of Ursula and Brownie – they are either pathetic or unsympathetic. Iris Murdoch has played around a lot with coincidence in this novel, and there is of course a lot about goodness, and guilt. Death is a strong presence in the book, as is water, although in a smaller way than in some of IM's other novels. I loved the descriptions of the area around "Seegard" – where a good portion of the novel is set. Don't want to say too much more here – as I don't which of my fellow Murdochians have either read or started it yet.
Amazon Editorial Review In the English town of Ennistone hot springs bubble up from deep beneath the earth. In these healing waters the townspeople seek health and regeneration, rightousness and ritual cleansing. To this town steeped in ancient lore and subterranean inspiration the Philosopher returns. He exerts an almost magical influence over a host of Ennistonians, and especially over George McCaffrey, the host of Ennistonians, and especially over George McCaffrey, the Philosophers old pupil, a demonic man desperate for redemption. Of all the Iris murdoch novels I have tackled during our murdoch a month challenge, this is one of only about 3 or 4 I had read before – although I had absolutely no memory of it either before or while I read it this time. I can't say it is my favourite – or anyway near to being a favourite Murdoch, but it was enjoyable, and at times, really quite a page turner. I thought John Robert to be absolutely the vilest of her characters so far – except for maybe Julius in A Fairy Honourable defeat – there was just something so utterly repelent about him, and his odd relationship with his granddaughter. Many typical Murdoch themes – a good deal of philosophical chunterings which is no surprise given the title, but I did get a bit fed up with the constant inward exammination of everyone's motives and preoccupations. I really liked the character of Gabriel – she is just mad enough to be likeable – and also Adam and his adorbale dog – the dog was my favourite character – much more likeable than most Murdoch humans who are all just a bit peculiar -even the nice ones. As always there were serveral characters developing unlikely passions for one of the other characters, amazing how often IM has some repellently ugly bully being mooned over by at least two other seemingly sane normal people. Brian was vile, and George pathetic, but then there has to be at least one really pathetic male in an Iris Murdoch novel.
Amazon Editorial Review: First published in 1978, this is the story of Charles Arrowby who, retiring from his glittering London world in order to abjure magic and become a hermit turns to the sea: turbulent and leaden, transparent and opaque, magician and mother. But he finds his solitude is peopled by the drama of his own fantasies and obsessions, I was sure I had read this before – many years ago, and now reading it for the Murdoch a month challenge – i am not sure I did. The thing I "remembered" was Charles swimming off the slippery cliffs – attaching a rope to the rail of the steps with which to haul himself out. I think this is however a false memory – as what I recall may be from the book Iris by John Bayley in which he describes the swimming he and Iris frequently did. The Sea, The sea – is a big magical novel about obsession. The sea is a metaphor running through the novel for the swiftly changing emotions and fortunes of the characters. There is farce, humor and tragedy in abundance, along with some marvelous descriptions, some of them about food. A fascinating page turner, and really quite brilliant, and no wonder it won a Booker.
From Amazon Henry and Cato is the story of two prodigal sons. Henry returns from a self-imposed exile in America to an unforeseen inheritance of wealth and land in England. He is also returning to his mother. His friend Cato is struggling with two ambiguous intermingled passions, one for a God who may or may not exist, the other for a petty criminal who may or may not be capable of salvation. Cato's father and his sister Colette wait anxiously to welcome Cato back to sanity after his dubious escapades. Henry meanwhile confronts his mother, the unappeased furies of childish resentment, and various possibilities of revenge. Henry's cool mother watches, Cato's impetuous sister intervenes. Can love here become a saving force, or is it condemned to be possessive and demonic? Blackmail and violence take a hand, and both Henry and Cato return home at last. I won't say too much about this book here, as of course I shall be discussing it with my fellow Murdoch readers on our yahoo group. However I must say I really enjoyed this one, although not quite as much as The Word Child, which was the last one we read. There is much that is typical Murdoch here, and what I particularly loved with this one, is the genius of the duality of certain characters feelings, loving people only for who they think they are. Henry and Cato as characters are like the two sides of a mirror image. Enormously clever, this is a novel about love, power and faith. Very enjoyable and highly recommended to anyone who likes Iris Murdoch, or even has never read one before.