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):
- The Nice and the Good
- Bruno’s Dream
- The Black Prince
- The Good Apprentice (DNF)
- The Book and the Brotherhood
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?