Book: Under the net - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: Under the net
Friday, 17 August 2007 at 08:17 pm
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Author: Iris Murdoch

Details: (c) Iris Murdoch 1954; Pub Penguin 1974; ISBN 0-1400-1445-4

Verdict: Under the net is rather odd.

Reasons for reading it: I am generally a fan of Iris Murdoch, (although I absolutely hated The black prince). And after Terminal Café I had to read something I could expect to be well written.

How it came into my hands: Some charity shop in the UK somewhere. I've had the book for a while, partly because I have to be in the right mood for Murdoch, and partly because The black prince seriously put me off.

Under the net has very much the atmosphere of the kind of book where Things are Not as they Seem. But the resolution is more or less that things are in fact exactly as they seem, but the narrator is extremely fanciful and puts an overly complicated spin on everything that happens. It's doing the unreliable narrator thing in a really blatant way, and I can't quite decide whether Murdoch pulls this off or not.

UtN is a very slow paced book; I did find I was forcing myself to read it at some points. I think it is rather like the stereotypical idea I formed of Murdoch before I read any of her stuff, based on the way literary types rave about her. It's clever, and there's a pretty high level of technical skill, and it's just crying out to be analysed by literature students. It has a lot of good points: Murdoch's characteristic deep, detailed observation of people, situations and society pretty much justify the effort. The characters are not terribly sympathetic on the face of it, but real enough that one cares about them. I don't think this is at quite the level of mastery that some of her later books reached, but I'm possibly biased because I just generally didn't like the book very much. Certainly the writing is impressive.

There's quite a lot of humour and playfulness, but unfortunately the majority of it is not my style of humour; it tends to the slightly cruel or of the kind that makes the audience cringe as they helplessly watch the characters heading into awful or embarrassing situations. There seems to be a running joke about practically all the characters being Irish, which I didn't entirely get. I have a suspicion that the book is in some way reacting to or commenting on or even pastiching James Joyce, but I haven't read much Joyce so that's just a hunch.

I think the main conclusion is that I can see that UtN is good, but I'm very clearly the wrong audience for it.


Whereaboooots: London
Moooood: uncomfortableuncomfortable
Tuuuuune: Bettie Serveert: Hell = other people
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nou: default
From:nou
Date:August 17th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
10 minutes after journal entry, 10:29 pm (nou's time)
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Under the net has very much the atmosphere of the kind of book where Things are Not as they Seem. But the resolution is more or less that things are in fact exactly as they seem, but the narrator is extremely fanciful and puts an overly complicated spin on everything that happens.

Oh! Is that what it is?

I read this a few years ago and just didn't understand it at all. I thought I was just not perceptive enough to understand the Not What They Seemness of it.
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livredor: bookies
From:livredor
Date:August 17th, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
27 minutes after journal entry, 10:47 pm (livredor's time)
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Well, bear in mind that I'm not terribly good at literary analysis. But it does seem like the whole ending follows perfectly logically from the setup at the beginning, but Donaghue is so convinced that everybody is double-crossing everybody else and harbouring inexplicable grudges and lying about whom they're in love with that it takes all kinds of twists for him to get to that point. Consider this sequence in the final chapter:
"But he must have told you he wanted to go back?"
"He did, now I come to think of it," I said, "but I didn't believe him." And somehow this phrase had a familiar ring. "I'm a fool," I said.
It is a very confusing book though; it's doing that classic modernist thing of being apparently very realist, with a lot of mundane details, but actually making the reader feel uneasy and giving the impression that reality is slippery.
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nou: default
From:nou
Date:August 19th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 05:51 pm (nou's time)
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Thank you! I think I shall give it another go (if I can find it... I used to have my fiction in alphabetical order but haven't restored it since the house move a year ago) and give myself permission to give up if I'm not enjoying it :)
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