The Sunday Salon: Reading Iris Murdoch

Happy autumn, everyone!  The season doesn’t “officially” change until later this week, but the air has that lovely crisp feeling, and the days are getting shorter.  We’ve had gorgeous weather in my part of the US:  sunny with mild temperatures and very little humidity.  This is my favorite season; the only thing I don’t like is that it’s so short!  Before you know it, I’ll be complaining about the cold :/

But on to more interesting topics !  I’m currently reading Iris Murdoch’s The Bell, my fifth book by Murdoch, chosen because it’s on the “1001” list and satisfies a reading challenge requirement.  And besides, Murdoch is one of my favorite authors and I’m slowly working my way through her vast body of work.  It all began a few years ago, when my husband was out of town for a few days, and I decided to catch up on some films I’d missed in the cinema.  I rented a bunch of DVDs, including Iris, starring Judi Dench and James Broadbent.  I’m a huge Judi Dench fan, and had been tempted by favorable reviews, despite never having read Murdoch’s work.  I was not disappointed; the film was incredibly moving.  Of course I rushed out to the bookstore and chose a couple of books at random, since I didn’t realize how prolific she was and had no idea which were considered her best.

It took me a while to get used to Murdoch’s writing, but I enjoyed my first two Murdoch books (The Sandcastle and An Accidental Man), and knew I would read more.  Yet I’ve also suffered from the “so many books, so little time” syndrome; in the past couple of years I have only read two:

Murdoch writes primarily about morality and sexuality, and — at least in the books I’ve read — tears her male characters apart.  Her themes and style are unique, and really must be experienced by anyone who enjoys great literature.  I’m considering a long-term reading project, in which I aim to read the complete works of my favorite authors.  The question with Murdoch is, what should I read next?  There’s The Black Prince, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Or The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, which won the Whitbread award.  Or perhaps I should read chronologically.

Nah, too structured.  Help me here …

Can you recommend a favorite novel by Iris Murdoch?


Read more from The Sunday Salon here.


10 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Reading Iris Murdoch

  1. I haven’t read any Murdoch yet, but watched Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal last night — great performance. Looking forward to my first Murdoch, probably The Sea, The Sea.

  2. I have read several Murdoch novels, but my favourites are The Philopher’s Pupil, The Black Prince and of course The Sea, The Sea. The next one I want to read is The Bell, which is already on my tbr shelves.

  3. She is an author with which I am unfamiliar so I cannot advise you. I’m a much less structured reader anyway, reading wherever the winds carry me.

    I’ve only read children’s books this week, but what wonderful children’s books they were! I’d love to have you stop in at my blog:

    (And don’t panic….the post IS in English, despite all outward appearances!)

  4. Hm, for obvious reasons, I’ve always been curious about Iris Murdoch. However, I still need to read anything by her.. I wonder where it is I should start?

    • I had difficulty knowing where to start, too, Iris. Perhaps it doesn’t matter — read the plot summaries and choose one that appeals to you!

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