1969 Booker Prize Short List – the nice and the good – Iris Murdoch

Let’s bash out a quick one for this – as I’m two reviews behind and if I continue to procrastinate I’ll end up forgetting why I enjoyed this one.
I don’t know if the title in lower case, in the edition I bought (a recent reissue by Vintage Classics), symbolises anything or if it was just a quaint way of designing a cover. It could well mean the insignificance of being “nice” or “good” – but that could be drawing a long bow.

Whereas Mosley’s “Impossible Object” has a chapter (or story) called “Suicide” this novel opens with a suicide in the Government Offices where a number of the main characters work. The investigation (or “inquiry”) is a sub-plot which plays throughout the novel and connects a number of characters throughout.

Early on I thought I was going to struggle with the innumerable characters introduced (and even thought why couldn’t there be a family tree or some other diagram in the front so I could continually reference it). Amazingly enough it didn’t take me long to work out all their foibles, their connections etc. and quickly understood each nice and good character.
Long passages describing the seasons, the birch trees, the flowers, the rambling walks almost make this Hardy’esque (is that a word?) and I’m sure many a literature teacher has asked a student to describe the symbolism of the seasons, the thick ivy covering the gravestones, the description of pebbles on the beach…you know what I mean.

A book about relationships, the internal struggle for the perfect relationship, the tricks we play on ourselves when seeking partners, the tricks we play on others. Complex, yet enjoyable. Neatly packaged, but leaves you wondering.

Another highly readable and enjoyable book, which scores points from me as yet again, I could (a) finish it, (b) would recommend it and (c) enjoyed it.

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