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The Green Knight

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  985 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Full of suspense, humor, and symbolism, this magnificently crafted and magical novel replays biblical and medieval themes in contemporary London. An attempt by the sharp, feral, and uncommonly intelligent Lucas Graffe to murder his sensual and charismatic half-brother Clement is interrupted by a stranger--whom Lucas strikes and leaves for dead. When the stranger mysterious ...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,696)
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An unforgettable book by a brilliant author. But how to describe it? I can't do better than begin with this from another Goodreads reviewer: "Clement is in love with Louise. Louise's husband is dead. Everyone thinks Moy is in love with Clement, but she is in love with Harvey. Harvey thinks he's in love with one sister, but he's actually in love with another sister. One sister is in love with Lucas. Lucas is Clement's brother. Lucas tried to kill Clement. But he actually killed Peter Mir. Only, P ...more
Sarah Beaudoin
I always experience a mix of emotion when I reread a beloved book. Excitement that I'm going to spend hours with something I've proven to love but at the same time trepidation that for some reason, the story will fail to captivate me as much as previously. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find that, upon rereading, I find I love the book even more than I did originally. Such is the case with The Green Knight.

The Green Knight traces the lives of a group of people loosely arranged as a family more
Throughly caught up in the dramas of Lucus and Clement and their brush with murder, also Bellamy's wish to become a monk. Enjoy Iris's way with words. So far so good.

Finished. Iris weaves a good story, was unable to stop reading. One flaw though, one of the characters dies suddenly and I suspect that Iris just killed him off to finish the story as no other character actually questions why he died or how he died. And so while the other characters have resolutions to their problems the catalyst (
A much paler novel than Murdoch can be at her best (as in The sea, the sea). The characters seemed to be inhabiting some earlier decade and I'm ultimately as confused as the character Clement as to how far the comparisons go to the resetting of the legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. The mysterious Peter Mirs manages to be an entrancing character and Anax the collie was heart-stealing in a non-Lassie way. Read it for the dog isn't a great recommendation, though.
3.5 stars

Not sure where to start with this one. Here's what I liked: some of the characters, especially the Cliftonians Aleph, Sefton, and Moy; I loved their old-fashioned nature. I enjoyed the focus on a group of people rather than on any one particular person. I liked the "main" drama regarding Peter Mir and Lucas. In short, I didn't find it hard to be interested in these people and their lives. I found that the book was less about what happened than how the characters experienced it--the inne
I picked up this book because of the title's allusion to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and I haven't read anything by Murdoch before. I set out with high expectations as I commenced reading, but this has been a torturous read. I love descriptive writing, but Murdoch goes overboard in describing every minutiae there is, and the semi-stream of consciousness description of the characters' thoughts after awhile annoyed me. How many times am I to read a character's overly melodramatic mental musing ...more
Italo  Perazzoli
The Green Knight is the 25th novel written by the prolific Iris Murdoch, the purpose of this novel is reasoning about the connection between art and morality a first example lies at page 9:

"A picture of Remembrant: Oh yes. I always found that picture a bit soppy. isn't he supposed to be a woman? And anyway now they say it isn't by Remembrandt. But seriously, are they in love?

Looking at this painting we can say that the art is immoral because we are considering the knight as a woman and not as ma
The only Murdoch I've read so far is this novel and "The Unicorn," but her stories, though vaguely set in the "present" day, operate on a seemingly timeless plane. I read a few comments questioning the realism of the dialogue, especially that between the young adult characters of this novel--certainly a valid observation--but I think that the titles of her novels serve to place the book in some semi-mythical place that requires a certain suspension of disbelief. The philosophical themes and myth ...more
I have read around in the Green Knight. It is one of those books I began not to trust and so went to the ending and read backwards. The large array of characters are fascinating, but also unreal in their actions and attitudes. The philosophical talk is charming and thoughtful, but because the author provides detailed descriptions of the characters without allowing examination of those characters in conflict, I developed little of the attachment to them that I would have had I seen their personal ...more
The action seems to turn around an attempted murder of a half-brother by his jealous sibling, and the return to life of the actual victim, a man who attempted to intervene but received a nearly fatal blow to the head. But a very interesting part of the story is how this is variously seen through the eyes of three precocious sisters - each extraordinary in her own way. These girls/young women are somewhat anxiously approaching the end of their lively but sheltered girlhood. They've been happy, an ...more
Murdoch brings together a wide net of characters who are as enjoyable as they are irritating and often enough enjoyable because they are irritating. She weaves this cast around the pliable structure of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight story. But this book does not only draw from the Arthurian tale, but from paintings and other sources of art, using ekphrasis as a mode of story telling. The use of art in the story is not without examination. For instance, one scene recreates the Leda and the S ...more
Henry Branson
If you were going to recommend one Iris Murdoch novel, to someone who had never read any, which summed up her work, this might be it!

A large cast of intellectual and eccentric characters - check!
Not one but two enigmatic sorcerers - check!
An ethical dilemma at the heart of the novel - check!
Key scene by the sea - check!

Although it is sometimes frustrating that so many of her characters are drawn from the public school/Oxbridge/privileged/upper middle class slice of England that she occupied, the
Iris Murdoch’s last grand curtain call.

Everyone gets a nod, Wittgenstein, Ekhart, Beowulf, Hamlet, Goethe in a novel set against her London backdrop - we even get the Sea! Her intellectual recall is astounding, with mature themes explored alongside a giddy mix of eccentric characters and a plot that crackles.

The shear brilliance of this novel makes her tragic fall into the fog of Alzheimer’s so shortly after its completion all the more tragic. IM was at the stellar height of her considerable ima
I liked it - of course. I love how she writes. The strength in this one is character drawing. They are all interesting and recognisable. And the plot is Ok - a little ambitious. The Cane and Abel construct is not examined deeply enough for my liking and the Green Knight of the title could have stood plenty more investigation. As usual in Murdoch, there is a host of supporting characters and musings on their respective challenges, some of whom and which I would gladly have sacrificed for a more f ...more
Lawren Hyder
"And he thought, I shall go on blindly and secretly jumbling all these things together and making no sense of them as long as I live. Maybe every human creature carries some such inescapable burden. That is being human. A very weird affair."

I saw Iris Murdoch's debut novel on the Modern Library 100 list but ultimately read this later work because it seemed more relevant to my interests. And so it was: a subtle study of the intersection of madness and mysticism, woven into a sometimes-funny magic
Another desert-island book. Dark, lush, and thought-provoking.
This was a difficult book to soldier through. It sure was literary, though!

It was interesting, but ultimately too bizarre for me to enjoy. There were unusual takes on the Cain and Abel story, the Transfiguration, the death and resurrection of Jesus, etc....but so twisted and/or incomplete as to render this story just...odd.

I do think her writing could be improved by some serious editing out of extraneous (it didn't move the story along at all) daily detail. Example: Iris gives us the exact seati
Clement is in love with Louise. Louise's husband is dead. Everyone thinks Moy is in love with Clement, but she is in love with Harvey. Harvey thinks he's in love with one sister, but he's actually in love with another sister. One sister is in love with Lucas. Lucas is Clement's brother. Lucas tried to kill Clement. But he actually killed Peter Mir. Only, Peter Mir isn't dead! Peter Mir is our beloved Green Knight, beheaded but still among the living. Who is Sir Gawain? Was there ever really a Ga ...more

I quite enjoyed this one-although my exhausted state of mind meant I should have waited to read it when I was more relaxed and better able to concentrate, it was too heavy for my tired brain. Therefore it took me a while to get into it. I actually found after the first 70 or 80 pages - the story really got going. The middle part of the novel is fast paced and really hard to put down. However the novel may be a bit over long.
The story concerns a group of people, connected to Lucas Graffe, and an
I'm still not sure what to make of this book. Given the title and the source of the recommendation (to me), I was expecting something of an out-and-out fantasy novel. Nothing doing. This novel tells the story of a couple of families and groups of friends, apparently in modern day England. I say apparently, because although they have cars and cell phones, the dialogue, descriptions, and the things people choose to talk about read like a Victorian novel. The book held my interest -- some character ...more
Good if stylized writing, insight into the human heart, but I think I missed something here that made it a better book for others than I thought it was. Perhaps if you're a christian scholar and medievalist, you'd get the something I missed. The interesting event that turned the plot took until page 100 to happen, and then it really wasn't as interesting in the long run as it might have been. Still, I'd give another of her books a try based on the writing in this one.
One of my favorites that I re-read every few years. The setting is contemporary but doesn't feel 'real'. Many complain that the dialogue and characters don't seem realistic but they aren't meant to. This isn't realist literature. May as well complain that Monet's 'Water Lilies' are all blurry. As well the plot centres around a 'murder mystery' but most of the book is not directly focused on this plot, much more is on character and inward meaning.
Miller Sherling
So... strange. She's quite a writer. This was my first Murdoch. I think I would not want any of the characters in this book to be in my life; they're a bit precious and suffocated. They are all so, so... repressed. Hard to watch. But she weaves such a strange and interesting tale out of them and their improbable lives and interactions, that as a whole, it works.
I always enjoy reading Iris Murdoch - her characters are never types, always unusual, always textured and multifaceted - and yet she doesn't really write a 'realistic' novel. I might almost call The Green Knight particularly fanciful, but it's still got honest emotion to it and, as always, Murdoch does an excellent job of exploring the fickle human heart and the ways people often create mysteries of themselves to themselves, of the ways we dissemble to others, rely on pretense and habit in relat ...more
Renato introduced me to Iris Murdoch with this book, and I really enjoyed it, though it's nearly impossible to explain why or how. The plot basically follows a group of two upper middle class families and their close friends in England. There's a murder, a mysterious stranger who inserts himself in their lives, and lots of metaphysical/mythical allusions and activities. Murdoch manages the large cast well, with great dialogue and crisp prose with an undercurrent of dry humor. Only major complain ...more
Iris Murdoch writes about a London in which young people in the 1990s wear vests, woolly tights and pyjamas, sing madrigals, exclaim, "Good Heavens!" and "Oh Lord!", and don't watch TV. It's very strange, but endearing - her London is the London we all know, same river, same places, same landmarks, but an oddly different zeitgeist - like a parallel universe version of London.

If you can suspend astonishment and accept this, then you're in for another cracking good read - a plot that's too good to
Oh this was a fascinating and frustrating book. At first, it felt quite like A.S. Byatt - erudite, complex, with a wide cast. About 1/3 of the way through, though, the intellectual content ceased to do anything *new*, and I grew frustrated with all of the characters. I was particularly irritated by the fact that none of them seemed to have any *work*. Except for the aberrant character of Lukas, no one actually did any work, even those who had jobs. Sefton studied, but we only found out about it ...more
"People don't really talk like that, do they?" I kept asking myself as I read. "Exactly when is this placed in timewise?" They don't seem to have any modern conveniences, but as timeless as the book reads, it seemed very dated to me for a book published in the 1993. It had to be one of Murdoch's last books before she lost herself to dementia. It felt like this was a tribute to her early years, her early friends, and I wondered if as her short term memory faded if the past was more real.

She's a
The book starts with two ladies chatting about people that doesn't seem to matter much.
Regrettably, that's enough to turn me off...
If it starts like that what are the chances of it getting better?
I wanted to like this book, I really did. It's beautifully written, and when the story echoes "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," it's quite compelling. Unfortunately, most of the characters are so deeply irritating that I found myself skimming large chunks of the book. The novel is set in 1990s Britain, but nobody seems to work or go to school, much less do anything as plebeian as watch television or take the Underground. I'll probably give Murdoch another chance, but it may take me a while.
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Summary 1 5 Nov 12, 2013 04:53PM  
  • Babel Tower
  • Iris Murdoch: A Life
  • Aka
  • A Christmas Carol and Other Stories
  • Under the Autumn Star
  • Elle et lui
  • Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch
  • La duchesse de Langeais
  • Straumēni
  • Modern Classics Flappers and Philosophers: The Collected Short Stories Of F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Language & Silence: Essays on Language, Literature & the Inhuman
  • English Music
  • The Thing about Thugs
  • Fathers and Crows
  • Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice
  • Lemprière's Dictionary
  • Lelia: The Life of George Sand
  • Little Eyolf
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 about Iris Murdoch...
The Sea, the Sea Under the Net The Bell A Severed Head The Black Prince

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“The theatre is a tragic place, full of endings and partings and heartbreak. You dedicate yourself passionately to something, to a project, to people, to a family, you think of nothing else for weeks and months, then suddenly it's over, it's perpetual destruction, perpetual divorce, perpetual adieu. It's like éternel retour, it's a koan. It's like falling in love and being smashed over and over again.’
'You do, then fall in love.’
'Only with fictions, I love players, but actors are so ephemeral. And then there’s waiting for the perfect part, and being offered it the day after you've committed yourself to something utterly rotten. The remorse, and the envy and the jealousy. An old actor told me if I wanted to stay in the trade I had better kill off envy and jealousy at the start.”
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