Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Review: THE BELL, by Iris Murdoch
Reading Iris Murdoch is always a treat. Her novels are luminous little worlds with unique and beautifully-drawn characters whose relationships with each other are intricate and carefully wrought. Reading her books is to be reminded how good novels can be.
This novel tells the story of an English religious community and what happens when an unhappily married woman blunders in and sets off a chain of events that change it utterly. Dora Greenfield is returning to her husband Paul after a separation. As we get to know the community fissures start to show. Dora doesn't quite fit in, true, but then no one quite does. Paul is rigid and judgmental and claims to love his wife but you'd never know it. Michael, the leader, is there after more than one failed career and he is about to be confronted by the young man, Nick, who was the reason for one of those failures. Nick's unstable sister Catherine is about to become a nun in the abbey attached to the community, and young Toby finds himself discombobulated after an encounter with Michael. No one embodies the ideal of serenity and contemplation one might expect.
To top it off, the community is bracing for a major public event, the installation of a new bell, when the old bell, an ancient symbol of faith, is rediscovered by the unlikeliest of people.
The Bell is a pleasure to read. Part tragedy, part comedy, part meditation on human weakness and folly, it's just rewarding and enjoyable and suspenseful and fun. Murdoch's books feel like clothes that fit just right, and I am always glad to have read her.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.