Author: Iris Murdoch
Details: (c) Iris Murdoch 1957; Pub Vintage 2003; ISBN 0-09-943358-3
Verdict: The sandcastle is a fascinating character piece and just my sort of thing.
Reasons for reading it: I am fond of Iris Murdoch, and I had a long train journey from Dundee to Cambridge to occupy.
How it came into my hands: The lovely Mind bookshop in Jericho.
I really enjoyed The sandcastle. It's one of those books where not a lot happens, but it's so utterly vivid. In a sense the world described is entirely mundane and realist, but it does feel as if Murdoch has created something entirely real. Every little detail is in place, for the situation as well as the characters. It certainly doesn't get overwhelming with boring detail like some of the early Realist stuff, it's just all the things that one subconsciously notices, living in reality, that most novels don't bother with. The language is also very fine, it seems as if every word is precisely the right one but without being especially elaborate or poetic.
I was also very impressed with the way that Murdoch handles the adultery theme. tS captures the sheer glory of falling in love and finding a deep connection with another person, but it still manages to portray the affair between Mor and Rain in a plausible, not at all romanticized way. The affair is sordid and mostly miserable, even for the lovers, not just for Mor's betrayed wife, but it's not sordid because the protagonists are not 'really' in love. It's a very sad story in a lot of ways, because it shows how basically decent people can end up very unhappy. It's totally ruthless in not letting True Love magically resolve real life problems, but still describes a deeply romantic love affair that the reader can believe in.
The other great strength of tS is the way the minor characters and subplots are done with real artistry. Every single character in tS is a real person, and the real events of their lives are interesting, even while the main plot about the affair is always centre stage. This is another way that the novel seems to create a real world, because all the people who just happen to be tangentially connected to Mor have lives of their own that are just as important to them as his life is to him.
So not exactly an action-filled book, but if you don't mind that tS is well worth reading.