So many people who want to start reading Iris Murdoch start here, because it's her only novel to win a Booker Prize. This is always a mistake: this is one of her most difficult novels, as even its fans would agree. It is also, to my mind, one of her few unpleasant novels written before 1980: the hero is a very unpleasant and arrogant retired theatre director who has moved to the coast, where he is visited by a group of unpleasant friends from London (who seem to pop in unannounced at all hours). He also comes across the love of his life, whom he is convinced is stuck in an unhappy marriage. The plot goes and goes, but it's hard to care for any of these characters--or even for the plot itself, in that the very rules and stakes of the narrative change illegitimately as it progresses. I've always been surprised by the reputation this novel has garnered: its one of the rare better-known Murdoch novels that not only disappoints but leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth (I would highly recommend instead reading A SEVERED HEAD or THE BELL, which I think are much more successful works).