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The Bell

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  4,497 Ratings  ·  343 Reviews
A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an order of sequestered nuns. A new bell is being installed when suddenly the old bell, a legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. And then things begin to change. Meanwhile the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost ev ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jean
"There is a story about the bell ringing sometimes in the bottom of the lake, and how if you hear it it portends a death."

The Bell is an early philosophical novel by Iris Murdoch, the Irish academic and Oxford professor of Philosophy, who also wrote in total 26 novels. This is her fourth novel, first published in 1958. The first of her novels to be shot through with ethical considerations, The Bell remains the one novel in her entire output where the moral conundrums are the most explicit. Until
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Algernon
Sep 09, 2015 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Opening lines:

Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six month later to return to him for the same reason. The absent Paul, haunting her with letters and telephone bells and imagined footsteps on the stairs had begun to be the greater torment. Dora suffered from guilt, and with guilt came fear. She decided at last that the persecution of his presence was to be preferred to the persecution of his absences.

Well, colour me intrigued by this passage and thrill
...more
Mary
Aug 15, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015, ireland
... he felt himself to be one of them, who can live neither in the world nor out of it.

In 1950s England it was illegal to be homosexual. In this novel it’s 1950s England and Michael is homosexual. He’s created a mysterious religious community nestled away in the secluded woods which also serves as storage space for his desires. But you really can’t hide from who you are, can you? And Dora, a young woman unhappily married to an older man, also starts to figure out that this kind of repression is
...more
Mariel
Feb 24, 2013 Mariel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: priests socks are blacker than any other kind of sock
Recommended to Mariel by: Maureen
There were many people, she said, and Michael was but too ready to credit her since he felt himself to be one of them, who can live neither in the world nor out of it. They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely; and present-day society, with its hurried pace and its mechanical and technical structure, offers no home to these unhappy souls.


The voice of t
...more
jo
Nov 29, 2013 jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

this book is so good. so so good. it is one of those books of which i ask myself, how did she do it? how did she come up with a story like this? what tremendous formal control does it take to write such a seemingly simple story and pack it with so much stuff?

the beginning is a bit Middlemarchian, in that a rather naive girl marries an older man who is passionate about his scholarship (we never learn whether his scholarship is any good) and also tremendously narcissistic, manipulative, and abusiv
...more
Candi
Jul 14, 2015 Candi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics-shelf
"There were many people who can live neither in the world nor out of it. They are a kind of sick people, whose desire for God makes them unsatisfactory citizens of an ordinary life, but whose strength or temperament fails them to surrender the world completely; and present-day society, with its hurried pace and its mechanical and technical structure, offers no home to these unhappy souls. Work, as it now is can rarely offer satisfaction to the half-contemplative."

In The Bell, we find such a grou
...more
David Rain
Jun 08, 2012 David Rain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the first Iris Murdoch novel I read, many years ago now, and straight away I was hooked. For months afterwards I was obsessed with her books, and read them one after the other. Her appeal is both simple and complex. Murdoch is a great storyteller, a brilliant inventor of plots. Typically, her stories start out like realistic novels of English life, only to become increasingly bizarre, with outrageous entanglements of relationship and motive, recognitions, reversals, melodramatic confron ...more
Nathan
It was just that Dora had then estimated, with a devastating exactness which was usually alien to her, how much of sheer contempt there was in Paul's love; and always would be, she reflected, since she had few illusions about her ability to change herself. It did not occur to her to wonder if Paul might change, or indeed into hope from him anything at all. She felt his contempt as destructive of her, and his love, consequently unwelcome. Yet all the time, in a shy and round about way, she loved
...more
Judy
Iris Murdoch's fourth novel shows a strengthening of fictional power while continuing her philosophical inspection of human character. I love the opening lines: "Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason."

Dora is one of the two main characters and represents the amoral personality. She is a fairly young woman, married to an older man. While living mainly on nerves and feelings, she has a horror of any sort o
...more
Maureen
Dec 31, 2008 Maureen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maureen by: Adrian
Shelves: 2010, novels
whenever i pick up an iris murdoch novel, it seems initially that i am embarking on a tale with conventional romance trappings, and then, very quickly, there is a moment of unease, and i begin to understand that she has lured me away from the safe harbour where her story begins, and that the universe her characters inhabit might be familiar to me but that i am not conversant with its rules. the bell was no exception: at first it seemed that the primary story would be that of dora, the desultory ...more
Jasmine
I added this book to my to-read shelf because of this article:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/boo...
Lavinia
Sep 03, 2008 Lavinia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007, fiction
I like Murdoch, she writes without inhibitions about such subjects as morality, sex and religions. The Bell has a special charm, combining the three subjects mentioned before. I really liked the way she portrays her characters, Michael, Dora and Nick, who, without any specific reason, became my favorite character.

***
imi place iris murdoch. scrie frumos, captivant si fara rezerve, neevitind subiecte precum moralitatea, sexualitatea si viata religioasa. clopotul e primul roman scris de ea pe care-
...more
Cecily
Religious community life: tension, spirituality, suppressed sexuality, practicality. Less overtly philosophical than Under the Net.
Eliane
I think we all thought Murdoch would be difficult, intellectual. In fact, she is funny, perceptive and very easy to read. Despite the setting of this book (1950s, a lay community) and its characters (very middle class British) I found the book compelling. Written largely from the point of view of three of the characters (Dora, Michael and Toby), the language itself conveys the personalities and failings of the characters. Her handling of male homosexuality is very sensitive and believable - even ...more
Juli
Apr 21, 2009 Juli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic piece of literature. It's almost 5 stars but I think it will take a re-reading to get to 5-start status.

Iris Murdoch had me at hello. The book starts with these lines:
"Dora Greenfield left her husband because she was afraid of him. She decided six months later to return to him for the same reason."

The story is set in 1950's England but could have happened today. The Bell about a group of dysfunctional people (which means they are just like you and me) who live together in a small comm
...more
Monica Davis
Three and a half stars. Thought about giving it 4 stars, but was left with too many questions on what motivated/drove some characters to their end...unsatisfying for me. However, if you appreciate truly creative writing, then this is worth the read for that aspect alone. Here's an example:

"Toby, as a Londoner, was not used to moonlight, and marvelled at this light which is no light, which calls up sights like ghosts, and whose strength is seen only in the sharpness of cast shadows."
Blake
Apr 12, 2012 Blake rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having for an introduction to Murdoch such a stolidly and rigidified work as The Italian Girl and subsequently and significantly losing interest in the author’s fiction, I have to wonder what changed in the meantime that had me so enthralled by this book even before I picked it up. As becomes immediately apparent, and more so as the book goes on, The Bell is a stirred and uncaged being offered up as a dedicated pupil of Murdoch’s multifarious notions and concerns.

Though Iris believed in the stri
...more
Xandra
Whenever books find their way into our discussions, my friend rarely misses the opportunity to point out how time-consuming reading is, since the same amount of information you gather from tens of pages of description can be visually assimilated from a movie in seconds. This popped into my head more than once while I was reading The Bell and made me painfully aware of the time lost, which is why I have such difficulty settling on a rating.

One aspect of the novel that I really liked is that ther
...more
Thermalsatsuma
Mar 01, 2009 Thermalsatsuma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-a-week-2009
Dora Greenfield is a young woman, married to the bullying, supercilious Paul who is thirteen years her senior. She has been separated from him for six months before deciding to go back to him when he invites her to join him at Imber Abbey where he is working on some ancient manuscripts. The Abbey is home to an order of cloistered nuns and has a small lay religious community attached, living in a stately home. The community has a wide range of members from the self appointed leader Michael, aspir ...more
Daniel
May 03, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I finish this book satisfied with what has come before and filled with the echoes of the emotional bouts that these happenings, and the characters that caused them, inspired. This is truly a novel in the sense that it proposes characters with complicated personalities and motivations, and sets their struggles and joys against portions of society that, in turn, contribute to the overall drama. It is an excellent novel for its prose, which is such a pleasure to read; for its structure, which balan ...more
João
Jan 30, 2017 João rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, foreign-fiction
A chegada de Dora e Toby à grande casa senhorial de Imber, anexa ao convento de freiras com o mesmo nome, desequilibra a pequena comunidade católica laica que aí se reunira e faz emergir uma torrente de paixões que estavam, se não reprimidas, pelo menos ocultas sob um véu opaco de fé. Michael, o líder da comunidade, sente-se atraído por Toby, o que o obriga a rever e repensar a sua grande paixão por Nick, um ex-aluno seu que também está em Imber a acompanhar a irmã Caterine antes de esta profess ...more
Sowmya
Feb 21, 2012 Sowmya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
(Dame?)Iris Murdoch = Detail. If she hadn't been a writer she'd have been looking for a needle in a haystack. (She was a philosopher which is sort of the same thing, for me)
The vivid descriptions of places and things, that bring the setting to life, don't extend to the characters. However, we do get a delightful glimpse into their emotions.
The setting here is an Abbey where a group of people happen to come together, right around the time that a new church bell is to be installed.
The mystery sur
...more
Mmars
Aug 20, 2012 Mmars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The mood of this book has stuck with me for a long time. Unfortunately, until today, I had been unable to come up with the book! I highly recommend this book to mystery readers who enjoy a large heft of literature or to literary leaners who enjoy a bit o' mystery in the mix. Also, well, thinking Catholics. (Okay. Kick me.)

Like an uneven floor, everything felt a bit skewed, or crooked. The monastery setting added to the feeling of strangeness, secretiveness, etc. Yet, there was also a bit of tong
...more
Kiely
Dec 29, 2015 Kiely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you plotted books using two axes, one to indicate how sad they are and one to indicate how funny they are, this one would lie right along the unity line, somewhere near the top right. Everything blows up, and then the aftermath is devastating and in some ways, lovely. Religion, sex, and the power dynamics of every kind of interpersonal dynamic are the subjects of this ruminative, sympathetic, singular, silly, sad book. This is my third or fourth read through and each reading, spaced out years ...more
Shilpi Mittal
May 23, 2017 Shilpi Mittal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I found the novel, the bell, magical... The way Iris murdoch has managed to set a strong novel with such a simple language and no unnecessary use of fancy words... It's a book where you don't focus on a story but each character and each event in itself talks a lot... Murdoch gives her reader good room to contemplate things on their own way... Book talks of philosophy and spirituality through catholics but character of Dora depicts that religion in itself is not required to to be a good soul... T ...more
Maxine
Jan 20, 2013 Maxine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Iris Murdoch read. I thoroughly enjoyed the satirical A Severed Head and the hilarious The Sea, The Sea, so when I picked up The Bell and read the blurb I was expecting a comedy of sorts set in a religious community. What I got, however, was a totally different kind of read with The Bell being more about dysfunctional people, flawed relationships and torn emotions.

The novel is set in Gloucestershire at Imber Abbey, where a small lay Anglican community live and work simply. The
...more
Longfellow
Initially, the facts of Dora Greenfield’s life are not particularly compelling; she has married above her class, married an older man who is one of her professors in art school. After marriage, she drops out of school, but soon Dora is not happy with her marriage and leaves her husband. She carries on a casual and rather shallow affair with an acquaintance. After a short time and on a capricious notion, Dora decides to return to her husband. But her return does not take her back to the familiar, ...more
Roseb612
Mar 03, 2014 Roseb612 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Roseb612 by: 1001
Na svou dobu (originál vyšel poprvé v roce 1958) to musel být dost skandální román - homosexualita je tam skoro všudypřítomná, byť to není nosné téma románu. Tím je pro mne hledání sebe sama - prakticky všechny postavy jsou neusazené, jejich život je v nějaké přechodné fázi (odněkud kam?). Jediné postavy, které jsou z tohoto dilematu vyňaty, jsou jeptišky - schované za vysokou zdí, neviditelné v kapli, při rozhovoru oddělené mříží - prostě nedosažitelné. Stejně jako se jeví nedosažitelný jejich ...more
Ryan
Aug 21, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murdoch adeptly conveys the enticing yet frighting challenges of self knowledge and self control. She demonstrates the tricks of traditional novel writing, yet blends in a few of her own techniques as well. For instance, she alternates third-person perspectives among a few main players, yet mixes their voices with the omniscient. This is most notable in the case of young Toby. Murdoch describes his views using his favorite word, rebarbative, while commenting authoritatively on his emotional deve ...more
Antiabecedarian
Apr 11, 2008 Antiabecedarian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all ha-ha curious types & friends of high school english teachers
Recommended to Antiabecedarian by: tallulah elvis poodle
Shelves: ha-ha
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Dame Jean Iris Murdoch

Irish-born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist, Iris Murdoch dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues, sometimes in the light of myths. As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text. Murdoch produced 26 novels in 40 years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease.

"She w
...more
More about Iris Murdoch...

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“I know how much you grieve over those who are under your care: those you try to help and fail, those you cannot help. Have faith in God and remember that He will is His own way and in His own time complete what we so poorly attempt. Often we do not achieve for others the good that we intend but achieve something, something that goes on from our effort. Good is an overflow. Where we generously and sincerely intend it, we are engaged in a work of creation which may be mysterious even to ourselves - and because it is mysterious we may be afraid of it. But this should not make us draw back. God can always show us, if we will, a higher and a better way; and we can only learn to love by loving. Remember that all our failures are ultimately failures in love. Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected but made perfect. The way is always forward, never back.” 96 likes
“Those who hope, by retiring from the world, to earn a holiday from human frailty, in themselves and others, are usually disappointed.” 47 likes
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