A complex Shakespearean comedy of intertwined relationships, as nine closely linked characters search for love
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919. She read Classics at Somerville College, Oxford, and after working in the Treasury and abroad, was awarded a research studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1948 she returned to Oxford as fellow and tutor at St Anne's College and later taught at the Royal College of Art. Until her death in 1999, she lived in Oxford with her husband, the academic and critic, John Bayley. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 and in the 1997 PEN Awards received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net. Her twenty-six novels include the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978), the James Tait Black Memorial prize-winning The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread prize-winning The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her philosophy includes Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953) and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); other philosophical writings, including The Sovereignty of Good (1970), are collected in Existentialists and Mystics (1997).
This 1986 Murdoch is a Shakespearean comedy of misaligned lovers, minus the spirits and potions. Here the characters are responsible for their own actions, and Murdoch delights in painting these young, middle-aged and elderly adventurers and the psychological processes that direct their actions. Hugh's wife, Fanny, dies after 40 years of marriage; his former lover, Emma, appears at the funeral. Hugh becomes wild to win her love again, while neighbor Mildred (with her gay husband Humphrey's blessing) has designs on Hugh. Hugh's son Randall, meanwhile, is madly in love with Emma's companion/secretary Lindsey who may or may not be having an affair with her employer while Randall's wife Ann yearns for Mildred's brother Felix, who, in turn, has always secretly adored her. But it is the scheming of Miranda, Randall and Ann's teenaged daughter, that ultimately determines the outcomes of their lives, for better and for worse. Cozenove has a deep and melodic reading voice and a charming British accent that work well with this material, though his renditions of Hugh and Emma are a bit too elderly and scratchy for the characters and the story. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Manipulating masterfully, Miss Murdoch turns out a deft
three-in-one book: a sort of combined superior soap opera... a
British novel of sensibility, and philosophical inquiry into
reality" * Time *
"I suspect that when the intellectual map of our own times comes to be sketched out, Iris Murdoch will occupy a position analogous to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky... Murdoch writes better than anyone about the condition of being love: both the ecstatic joys of it and its capacity to turn otherwise decent individuals into monsters of selfishness and cruelty... Her vision of the world is heart-rending, but ultimately celebratory" -- A N Wilson