Midweek @ Musings: An Iris Murdoch Retrospective

Last week I finished my 2011 Iris Murdoch project, which involved reading all five of her Booker Prize-shortlisted works.  As regular readers know, I have a “thing” for Booker Prize nominees, and enjoy perusing the prize archive for reading inspiration.  Murdoch is the most frequently shortlisted author, and won the prize once.  This seemed like a good way to “attack” the prize archive, and enjoy reading one of my favorite authors.

I read the five books in order of publication.  And it was mostly enjoyable (click on the links for reviews):

My ratings are surprisingly consistent!  And yet I do have a clear favorite:  The Black Prince, which occupies a place of honor along with A Severed Head (read my review).  These books stand out for their character development and plot, and for Murdoch’s keen insight to the male psyche caught up in a moral dilemma.

The books I enjoyed least were longer, and more “talky”and esoteric than the others.  The Good Apprentice and The Book and the Brotherhood focused too much on religious and political philosophy for my taste.  They also came late in her career; Murdoch published only two more books after The Book and the Brotherhood.  This suggests a conscious shift to focus on such themes, but I would need to do more research to verify this.

I’ve now read 10 of Murdoch’s 25 novels.  I’m sure I’ll read more, but at a slower pace.  I really enjoyed giving so much attention to a single author this year.  This could be the start of a new tradition!

Have you read Iris Murdoch?  Which of her books is your favorite?

8 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: An Iris Murdoch Retrospective

    • Jackie, I’m hesitant to heartily recommend books to you because our tastes are often quite different, but I do have a feeling you’d like The Black Prince. And what have you got to lose? You’ve become quite good at abandoning books that just don’t click for you.

  1. Have you read A Word Child yet? I read that one earlier in the year and loved it. The only other Murdoch book I’ve read is The Sea, The Sea which I didn’t really enjoy.

  2. Thomas, I really should read Under the Net. I enjoyed reading her Booker nominees chronologically, because I could see how her writing evolved over time. And I preferred her earlier work. So reading her debut novel would be fun. Thanks !

  3. Oh, A Severed Head was great: I’d forgotten about that one. So maybe I should nudge The Black Prince up the mental list.

    (And now I realize, despite my muddlement in the comments on your last post, that I didn’t read The Book and the Brotherhood but was thinking of The Nice and the Good. There is always some comfort in thinking that you at least understand why your memory has gone awry!)

    • BIP, responding to both of your “Iris” comments … there are some similarities between The Book and the Brotherhood and The Nice and the Good, I can see how those would get confused especially as time passes. A Severed Head was the book that made Iris “click” for me so I have a soft spot for it, for sure. I hope you enjoy The Black Prince!

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