Bruno, dying, obsessed with spiders and preoccupied with death and reconciliation, lies at the center of an intricate spider's web of relationships and passions: Bruno's estranged and grieving son Miles; Danby, Bruno's widowed son-in-law, consoling himself with the Adelaide the maid, one of Murdoch's finest comic creations; creepy Nigel the nurse and his besotted twin Will, fighter of duels. The flooding Thames brings about the climax, and all are left changed by love and forgiveness before the old man's death.
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(198mm x 129mm x 18mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
This is one of Iris Murdoch's formalized entertainments shifting between Bruno's dream and the reality he finds too difficult; also between the present (when, dying, he is hanging on to life along with his stamp collection) and the past which is of course more alluring. In fact almost all of the characters who move across this crowded stage with all its symbolic props are chained to memories while Miss Murdoch explores the metaphysics of life before the final cut-off when "Death contradicts ownership and self." And there are many others who like Bruno have no firmer foothold: his son Miles, with a dead wife who is just as dominant as his live Diana whose attentions now waver; a cavalier and charming son-in-law, Danby, who also alternates between Adelaide the Maid and Diana and Diana's sister Lisa; the twins, Nigel and Will (Adelaide's cousins), a rather nasty pair, etc., etc. The book is a processional like Going to Jerusalem and the characters go through endless emotional permutations. You never know which chair will be vacant since "Love knows no conventions" although it will be asserted as the life force after a flood washes away the past as well as Bruno's stamps. . . . Miss Murdoch is technically a fine enough tale and web spinner (spiders are also part of her bag) to sinuously engage your curiosity even where it may never extend to any real involvement. The reader, like Bruno, plays a waiting game. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Iris Murdoch
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).