A long time ago I read the opening of Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sea, The Sea (1978), but something happened, and the book disappeared – or I did – before I came to the end of it.
The Bell (1958), which I have just put down, is therefore the first book by Murdoch that I have read, from first to last. My immediate comprehension of this novel is to see it as a mix of a farce and a moral tale – rather overwhelming, but not without charm. And it ends rather beautiful, in a cooled down last chapter where the main characters growth and development during the plot is presented in a calmer tone.
Here is a short presentation from Patrick Gale’s point of view:
As in most Murdoch novels, there’s an air of playful artificiality. On one level she knows a novel doesn’t matter – she writes for intelligent readers who should probably be doing better things with their time, like healing people or teaching Greek philosophy – and her dialogues exist on a bright, self-aware plane that’s not quite real, as though the characters were on stage.
But on another level she’s writing about the only things that matter – love, goodness and how to be happy without hurting others – and, like her hero Plato, is using a seductively “easy” medium to bring us to deeper understanding.
Hm … , I must admit I really liked this novel, I might actually go and search for my old copy of The Sea, The Sea