A Severed Head Paperback – 1976
|New from||Used from|
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
“The is a comedy with that touch of ferocity about it which makes for excitement.”—Elizabeth Jane Howard
“Immensely readable . . . Miss Murdoch is blessedly clever withour any of the aridity which, for some reason, that word is supposed to imply.”—Philip Toynbee
From the Back Cover
“A power of intellect quite exceptional in a novelist.” –Sunday Times
“She is incapable of writing without fascinating and beautiful colour.” –The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
Ms. Murdoch is clearly not a great writer. Just read a page of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Virginia Woolf to remind yourself what acuteness of insight, depth of vision and felicity of expression great artists can achieve.
Alas, "A severed head" is not even a good novel. The twists of the plot are ludicrous (at the end of the novel, almost all male-female love relationships will have happened or been revealed in the brisk course of a few weeks), the characters little more than the embodiment of a few adjectives each. The dialogue rings false : there is precious little differentiation of tone and speech, every one drops high-brow cultural references at regular intervals. The mirroring of the narrator's confusion with the London fog is the very heavy simile that Ms. Murdoch beats to death for 200 pages.
This novel has been seriously crafted by a well-read professor who is not a genuine artist. The gist of the issue is that Ms. Murdoch has a few intellectual points to make (on love and seeing, mainly); she constructs her novel to achieve them, but does so with little of the true powers of vision and of expression on which the art of writing and the joys of reading rest. Intellectual novels can be successful, of course, provided there is enough spirit and/or language mastery to go with the ideas - think Dostoïevsky or Proust.
If you want a beautiful example of novelistic art, you'd do much better with "The photograph" an exceptionally fine work by Penelope Lively on the same theme, without the weighty intellectual pretensions. If you want to read a great modern novel, "Disgrace" by JM Coetzee will show you the abyss between a well-meaning but rather limp attempt at literature by a serious don and greatly moving art.
This story has to do with a group of people in contemporary (at least as of 1962, when the book was written), English aristocracy. They are all civilized and elegant and tasteful. The plot has to do with the various marital infidelities committed by each and every one of them, and their varying reactions to these discoveries.
The inclination of these people is to treat these things in a very civilized, low-key way. For example, there is an amusing scene in which the husband goes to get champagne to celebrate the announcement that his wife has found happiness by carrying on with . . . well, better not say too much. This emerges as an interesting theme. At want point does civility itself become immoral, when faced with immoral behavior? Must one continue to wear the famous vaunted, stoic, brave English face while inside one is churning with pain?
Well, one does if one recognizes that one is standing in the way of another's happiness. But what is happiness? Love? Perhaps, but another important theme of the novel is that love is not always what we think it is. Simple desire often clouds the issue, as does envy, or even baser motives, such as revenge. So how does civility fit in when faced with such complex and undefinable human emotions?
Ms. Murdoch offers no easy answers. In fact, the somewhat ambiguous ending would seem to indicate that humans--or at least upper-class English humans--will always flout convention when pursuing happiness. Or love. Or the perception of these.
This a fine novel. Although towards the end it careens into farce, one does not have to be an expert in the manners of mid-century English society to recognize what are, indeed, universal themes.
Most recent customer reviews
I enjoyed this story about power, love, control, and sincerity. Without being an amateur of psychological monologues, its tempo kept me reading. Read morePublished on May 26 2006 by benoitstpierre
I read this book in college. Some previous reader had underlined every appearance of the word "understand" - and for once I was grateful. I suggest you try that too.Published on June 10 2004 by Isabeau
I read this book after seeing the excellent film Iris. I still intend to read the entire Murdoch set, however I have not been too impressed with this first outing. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2002 by Matthew Hurst
The best book about the power of love...
how the true love gives one the energy to do, act, overcome
how the true love takes away the fear, makes the conditions of life... Read more
In "A Severed Head," Iris Murdoch takes the bedroom farce to a whole new level. It's a tangled tale of love, adultery, deception, self-deception, jealousy and attempted... Read morePublished on Aug. 16 2001 by bibliomane01
Honor Klein is one of the most fascinating of all of Murdoch's memorable characters. Murdoch uses humor deftly in this novel weaving a web of enchantment that underlies the more... Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2000 by R. Rockwell
Iris Murdoch's A Severed Head is a fantastic read. During my commute to and from work my head was buried between the pages of this absorbing tale. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2000 by angela lessard
"A Severed Head" is a dark but extraordinary novel, full of emotion, surprises, and sumptuous writing. Read morePublished on Aug. 31 1999