Iris Murdoch

Under the Net
I have just finished Under the Net, the first novel by Iris Murdoch. It is the story of a lazy intellectual academic and boozer named Jake, who makes a living from translating, with a cast of characters, male and female, his friends Finn and Dave and his girlfriends or maybe lovers, or maybe objects of Jakes desires, two sisters Anna and Sadie, and Madge. At the start of the story, Madge, who he has been living with, along with Finn, throws him out of her house, as she is getting married to a bookie. So, begins the tale. And central to this tale there is Hugo, a big man, fireworks factory owner and head of a film company.
This is my first Iris Murdoch book. I remember when the film: Iris, came out there was a lot of talk in the media about her, I had only vaguely heard of, Iris Murdoch but, all the talk about how great a writer she was had me intrigued. I still haven’t watched the film, but I did see an exert from it with Jim Broadbent, as Iris’ husband, telling Judy Dench as Iris, suffering from the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s, what she did, when she couldn’t remember about her work, he tells her about all the wonderful books she had written. A heart-breaking scene. My wife Kathy worked in the field of Alzheimer’s and has studded at The Iris Murdoch centre for the disease in Stirling. So, Iris began to work her way into my conciseness and with a brilliant Twitter account that puts out regular quotes from her books I felt it was time for me to try one of her novels and to begin at the start, her first book, Under the Net.
Under the Net is a brilliant story, there is a lot of philosophical passages throughout the whole narrative and I remember reading a terrific book: At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell. It is a history of Philosophy – that doesn’t do it any justice at all and I may write about that one day – in it she mentions that Iris Murdoch wrote a biography on Jean-Paul Sartre, one more push to get me on the path to reading her novels. This book is also a great London novel and it is hard to believe that it came out in 1954, it’s so fresh. The only tell-tale signs are the pub opening and closing times. There is also a short detour into Paris, which is so descriptive, I think she must have loved Paris as much as she loved London. With Jakes acquisition of The Marvellous Mr Mars, a canine movie star and Mrs Tinckham and all her cats, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in quick time, it was so easy to read, and I was sad when it finished. Sometimes, and I have heard a lot of people saying this, when you finish an enjoyable book, you don’t know where your next good one will come from well, now I know who to turn to.

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