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The Book and the Brotherhood [Hardcover]

Iris Murdoch
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1990
Many years ago, one of their number writes a political book. Time passes and their opinions about the book change. The theft of a wife further embroils the situation. Moral indignation must be separated from political disagreement.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The opening scenes of this charged and potent novel, Murdoch's 23rd, are flooded with gaily bedizened dancers at an Oxford Midsummer Night's ball. Couples in Shakespearean disarray chase and lose one another through the gardens. Gradually, a design becomes visible in the dense, chaotic weave of a slowly gathering fictional world. A male and female "brotherhood," bookishly inclined, give financial support to one of their number, the fanatic, red-haired, possibly mad writer Crimond. The friends worry about Crimond's mysterious, ongoing book. Is he a "maverick Marxist," urging terrorism to revolutionize the world? Crimond, strangely attractive to both men and women, while scorning and exploiting the "old dreamy continuum" of the brotherhood (which resembles the human condition), seems evil incarnate. Jean adores him, however, and leaves her bear-like, devoted husband for him. The lovers are less hilariously depicted than the similarly self-glorifying adulterers in The Good Apprentice. Here the satire is somber, the sense of character both sinister and muffled. But religious myths, theatrics and games offer salvation in the rising spirit of glee that marks the novel's latter portion. The couples' joyous pairings and recovery of serene, humorous domesticity re-enact the solutions of dark comedy. Fertile in the arts of language, story and philosophy, Murdoch brilliantly entertains the robust reader. 35,000 first printing.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Murdoch's long but moving 23rd novel follows a band of Oxford graduates who in their youth pledged monetary support to fellow student David Crimond to write a book of political philosophy. Now old age is approaching, none of the band has come to much, "the book" has yet to appear, and Crimond has turned out to be a moral and intellectual monster. There are fine set pieces here (a revelrous and finally sodden Oxford lawn party), but the novel's mood is chill. That Murdoch can work from the disaster and deceit at its center to a "new space of peace and freedom" is an inspiring achievement. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id .
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Chorus-line of Snails Feb. 23 2001
Iris Murdoch's "The Book and the Brotherhood" is a marvelously droll novel of manners that has the audacity to explore the philosophical and moral issues that have effectively paralyzed a group of '60s-era Oxford graduates. The novel opens, appropriately enough, at Oxford, where, in the shadow of their former classmates and professors, the friends have gathered some 25 years later for a Ball. The narrative follows the movements of the group in a Mozartian roundelay, as each is, in turn, humiliated by revenants that appear to mock the potential they have, with one notable exception, so ingloriously squandered. The title refers to a pact the graduates once made to underwrite a philosophical treatise to be written by David Crimond, the most charismatic of their set; to the consternation of each, however, it now appears that the book might actually become a reality, and the prospect of its publication leads the group to an orgy of self-reproach and soul searching. The event of the Ball also inspires one wife to leave her husband and to take up with Crimond, a decision that leads to unexpected complications in all their lives. The novel is full of comic and tragic moments whenever the principals, whom Murdoch likens to a chorus-line of snails, attempt to emerge from their shells. A second generation of thirty-somethings is headed down the same path of dalliance as their elders, or so it seems, until, in the final pages, Murdoch offer an affirmation, of sorts, in the form of a pending marriage. Readers familiar with earlier novels by the late Dame will not be disappointed by this weighty offering from 1987, which can only enhance Murdoch's already-secure reputation as one of the great novelists of her generation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a mix of intrigues Sept. 5 2003
As is her practice, Murdoch starts the novel with a dialogue among the characters making the reader to find out the relevant context.Too many characters disturbed in one way or the other compel the reader to go back in the story to find the link. The novelist's description of the chacters'views on God, Good and Reality compels admiration because, the tendency of the human being in this technological era is also not to arrive at a sane conclusion immediately on morals or philosophy.The moral and philosophical concerns of Iris murdoch in this novel are too heavy to grasp initially. As the work progresses, the reader realises the need for some soul searching to understand the relationships.The characterisation of Crimond and the homo-sexual relations of characters like Gerard, Jenkin etc provide much food for thought.The novel set in midsummer ends with the spring time of happiness in the life of Gulliver and Lily.
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By A Customer
Murdoch establishes a tone entirely different from those of her other novels. The characters seem more disturbed and more strained than those of her other works, yet their conclusions become more meaningful. In this novel, Murdoch may come as close as she ever does to the "real" world that we experience. It shows how difficult it is to be good, to throw off the tendencies towards self-delusion that keep us from seeing what is really going on in the world. Jenkin and Gerard are especially interesting characters in the contrast they create, and Crimond is fascinating because Murdoch allows him to remain vague for most of the novel. Also, the complex beginning that hints at A Midsummer Night's Dream is ingenious. Besides The Green Knight, this could be Murdoch's most ambitious work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Murdoch's Narrator March 9 2000
This novel may be Murdoch's finest. It has a wonderful and large cast of memorable characters; their sufferings are both moving and laughable. It has the finest parrot in all literature. The problem I first had with the novel was discovering what it was about. There were so many major characters and so many bizarre incidents that I could not easily find the book's theme--and I had been taught to look for themes. I think that at the heart of the novel, often unnoticed by its readers, is Murdoch's narrator. The narrator is almost never intrusive, but her presence makes the novel hang together.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Oxford graduates commission neo-Marxist book Jan. 29 1999
By A Customer
A wonderful blend of politics and Murdochian love-intrigue. It's a portrait of an enigmatic man on whom everybody projects his/her angst. Somehow moral progress emerges in small but meaningful ways.
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