Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Under the Net” as Want to Read:
Under the Net
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Under the Net

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  9,280 Ratings  ·  380 Reviews
Jake Donaghue, garrulous artist, meets Hugo Belfounder, silent philosopher.

Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with formidable Hugo, whose ‘philosophy’ he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric serv
Paperback, 252 pages
Published October 27th 1982 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1954)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Under the Net, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Under the Net

The Sea, the Sea by Iris MurdochThe Bell by Iris MurdochThe Black Prince by Iris MurdochA Severed Head by Iris MurdochUnder the Net by Iris Murdoch
Best of Iris Murdoch
5th out of 34 books — 45 voters
Fight Club by Chuck PalahniukThe Elephant Tree by R.D. RonaldThe Zombie Room by R.D. RonaldKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami1984 by George Orwell
Let's Shake It Up A Bit
395th out of 999 books — 564 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 08, 2007 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
I loved this book. A first person narrative about a young man on a picaresque quest for love and friendship, with a good healthy dose of philosophy added in for good measure.

The part of the story that stays with me is the story around Hugo. I think I liked most the idea that a friendship might end on the basis of an assumed betrayal and that the betrayal is one of the spirit and not one that occurred at all. Although, that is an interesting question in itself - does the person we feel we have be
Description: Iris Murdoch's first novel is set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a drifting, clever, likeable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging on his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. Jake is captivated by a majestic philosopher, Hugo Belfounder, whose profound and inconclusive refle ...more
Hossain Salahuddin
Jan 20, 2013 Hossain Salahuddin rated it it was amazing
"I hate solitude, but I am afraid of intimacy. The substance of my life is a private conversation with myself which to turn into a dialogue would be equivalent to self-destruction"

Winner of the Booker Prize, Irish-born British author Iris Murdoch’s (1919-1999) 1954 novel 'Under the Net' is a philosophical fiction dealing with the exuberant spirit of existentialism and freedom in a postwar europe. 'Under the Net' is Murdoch’s very first novel, and remains one of her most popular. In 2005, it was
Jun 17, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
You can't spend too much time figuring Iris Murdoch out. It's better to just buckle in with her. Her characters are basically insane, and so are her plots, and so are her sentences. They have a tidal effect; they pull you under.

Under the Net reminds me of Martin Amis's Money, or more accurately Money reminds me of it. They feature amoral protagonists in the entertainment industry, and they're both nuts. I actually think Money is a little better. It's certainly amped up, which is startling consi
Aug 28, 2007 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It seems to me that most male authors have male central characters, and female authors female central characters, especially when the novel is in the first person. It also seems to me that female authors (in general) create more believable female central characters, and male authors (in general) more believable male characters, especially concerning central characters and particularly when in the first person narrative. This shouldn't be surprising. That said, this novel, for me, is the best exc ...more
Sep 22, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
The cocky narrator of "Under the Net" is precisely what antiheroes are made of. Roaming the streets of London like a vagabond (though money frequently touches his hands) and interacting with vile people, THIS is a perpetual ode to laziness, exactly the type of thing to spark my particular interest.

The story is organic, its flow envious: few writers can get away with such subtle themes and sensual undertow. It is eerie, weirdly and mysteriously symbolic. A more faithful rendition of London life
Aly Lawson
Sep 02, 2010 Aly Lawson rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
When I read this in college, our modern lit professor warned us against being hayseed critics. We need to have a basis for our criticism, a chunk of spoken reason, or text, behind our critiques and accolades of each book we read. Otherwise, we’ll end up looking like the foolish critic in Norman Rockwell’s painting, sucking on a strand of hay while we squint and furrow at a work of art still in progress...

By the time Murdoch’s book was that quarter assigned, I was trying hard not be caught with s
Barry Pierce
At the beginning I was enjoying this semi-farcical/semi-philosophical novel. I love the ridiculousness of the entire plot and the characters but after a while it just became a bore. Once I hit the last hundred page stretch I found myself picking it up, reading ten pages, and putting it down again ad nauseum. It was a bit of a struggle to finish. However this book has not put me off Murdoch's work thankfully so I will be revisiting her again sometime in the future.
Feb 06, 2015 Zaki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think i'll ever tire of iris murdoch and am on a mission to read every book in her oeuvre.

Under the Net is a brilliant book about language and its inability to express certain things. It's leitmotif is that life is an amalgamation of meaningless events to which only the individual gives meaning.

It's a very British book and is full of sounds and the rhythms of London life.
Jan 05, 2012 Salma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
تدور الرواية حول جيك و هو مؤلف و صحفي يعيش حياة فوضوية متبطلة، لا تلوي على شيء و لا حتى للشهرة و المال، أشبه بالريشة التي تستسلم للريح و لتأخذها حيثما شاءت، و حول بعض الأحداث التي حصلت له في فترة من فترات حياته مع أصدقائه، و خاصة هوجو، الرجل غريب الأطوار الذي يعيش فلسفته الخاصة، لدرجة التخلي عن ثروته أكثر من مرة لأجل فكرة... و الكثير من النقاش و الحوار حول عدد من القضايا... و الكثير من ضمير الأنا للراوي جيك و عالمه الداخلي و تبصر في تحليل نفسه و مشاعره و تناقضاته...0
ليس هناك من أحداث لا مألوفة،
Jul 15, 2015 Angie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely loved reading this again - it was a hoot from start to finish. What an entertaining experience this was.

Witty, sharp, hilarious and colourful are the only words I can use to describe this tale of the hapless anti-hero, Jake Donaghue. At times this reminded me a little of Richard E Grant's wonderful Withnail character of the film; theatrical, fully versed in the power of the English language, sponger, all-time heavy drinker and leading the most charmed existence possible in 1950's Lond
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
I really find it hard to put in words why I have come to love Iris Murdoch. I was first exposed to her writing with The Black Prince.

It isn't the plot or even really the characters that draws me in. In point of fact, I really don't like the people in her books. In this book, however, there is a lot more humor to be had. It is like a slow, drawn out Wodehouse novel.

So, it must be something about her writing that I like. That must be it. It's a comfortable style. A soothing style. I will have to
Only a few weeks late, I finished this book for a July literary birthday read. What an odd book. At first, I took it seriously - that is, until I realized that it was meant to be funny.

Parts of it were totally absurd and reminded me of that crazy movie that the Beatles put out in 1964 (A Hard Day's Night), which was a madcap romp around London. No particular destination, just following whims and the needs of the moment. Running from people; racing around trying to find other people. It was funn
Charlie Rosenthal
Irish novelist Iris Murdoch's debut novel Under the Net is, at least in theory, one of those thrilling On the Road-style chronicles of youth spent without responsibility, thus creating interesting adventures populated by larger than life characters. However, what separates Under the Net from other, similar novels is, simply, that the characters are--with the exception of Jake--not interesting in the slightest. Murdoch spends a great fraction of the book explaining to the reader precisely why Jak ...more
Jan 15, 2012 Kin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-to-read, british
I wish goodreads widened its rating scale. My opinion of this book falls somewhere in the area between 'really liked it' and 'it was amazing'. It's a kind of 'really, REALLY liked it'.

I usually enjoy reading a novel's page on goodreads after finishing the book. Seeing my thoughts reflected in other readers' reviews gives me narcissistic pleasure and keeps at bay any urge to write my own. Today, however, I was bitterly disappointed - so many complaints against this marvelous piece! The story is t
This if the first Iris Murdoch novel (her debut novel) I've read, and though I don't like to give up on a writer after only one try, I'm trying to imagine why I might want to read any more of her work. I gave the book 2 stars - 'it was ok' - because it was ok, but only just ok. She can write and form lovely sentences, but the story was so anemic and undercooked I've lost my appetite.

I spent the past few days wondering "Is there something wrong with this book? Or is there something wrong with my
James Murphy
Jun 16, 2010 James Murphy rated it really liked it
I've had Under the Net on my tbr list for a long time. I should've read it earlier. I enjoyed it. As I began reading I noticed right away how funny it is. It should have been plain--it says right on the cover it's a comic novel. And it is. I was immediately reminded of Kingsley Amis. Later, of J. P. Donleavy, and today as I was finishing I thought of the early Samuel Beckett novel, Murphy. Those novelists wrote energetically about characters like Murdoch's Jake Donaghue, men who lead frenzied an ...more
Jul 28, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
I loved this book. I found it to be brilliantly funny. After reading several books where at the end I thought "What was the point?", "Under the Net" was extremely refreshing. The novel has a bit of mystery to it, so it is hard to see where Murdoch is taking her characters until the end is reached. Not until the end do you understand how Jake, Hugo, Sadie, and Anna are all wound together and how important it is for Jake to unwind their stories in order to move forward in his own life. Every scene ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Cecily rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
Her first published novel, set in "contemporary" 50s London. Aimless youth gets philosophical. He oughtn't to be a sympathetic character and nothing much happens, but it's strangely compelling.
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 10, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Time 100 Best Ever Novels; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, picaresque
This is my 2nd book by Dame Iris Murdoch (1919-1999). I read her 1978 Booker Prize winner The Sea, The Sea last year first because it is both included in the 501 Must Read Books and 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I liked it so much that I started reading this novel with high expectations. Also, this novel Under the Net is my 29th book included in the TIME Magazine's 100 Best Novels. The Sea, The Sea is not in that list.

Well, TIME's Richard Lacayo (one of those, the other being Lev Gros
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I am not really sure what was it in this novel that I felt almost nothing while reading it.

When Iris Murdoch tried to be funny, I felt no humor whatsoever. I saw her try to develop some complicated twists and turns, but I was never at the edge of my seat about anything. Her philosophical musings made me sleepy. Her attempt to put some romance into this made me yawn.

My copy of this book has an introduction by Kiernan Ryan who calls it a bold and brilliant debut by Murdoch. Mr. Ryan sees in the no
Max Nemtsov
Feb 25, 2016 Max Nemtsov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ru-versions
первый роман айрис мёрдок считается философско-плутовским романом (с юмором), а советская критика (естественно) причислила его к образцам творчества "сердитых молодых людей" (потом, правда, русская несколько одумалась и теперь не причисляет его ни к чему).
на самом деле, это битницкий роман, только пересаженный на британскую почву: нормальный герой керуака (только чуть больше вписанный в социум и устроенный в жизни) попадает в мир примерно вудхауса и мотается не с одного края континента на другой
Aug 07, 2010 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cindy by: Book club pick 7/15/10

Jake Donaghue is a lazy, mooching, failed writer. Under the Net is basically a free-flowing connection of his and his friends' antics in London and Paris. Under the surface is a commentary on language, and how words so incompletely convey ideas and rarely express the truth.

I almost abandoned this book up until the half-way mark. The only way I could describe it is vacuous: there just wasn't much there. I didn't hate it, but I just couldn't bring myself to feel anything towards the story, the cha
Jan 09, 2016 BrokenTune rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, iris
Review posted on BookLikes:
Ian Mapp
Jan 28, 2011 Ian Mapp rated it it was ok
This book was chosen from the overview provided in 20th Century British Authors on BBC 4. I liked the premise of a child like failed author (Jake) bumbling around London in the 1950's - sponging from his friends, a bizarre love square with the Quentin Sisters and Hugo. Each of them loves the wrong person.

The star of the book is 1950's London - the place names, pubs, coffee houses and the now obviously dated dialogues were a joy in the book. There are a couple of set pieces - like when Jake and h
Jun 02, 2009 Kecia rated it really liked it
The more I think about Under the Net the more I like it. It has nice balance of quirky characters, a rollicking fun story, with a bit of sobriety thrown in. As the story progresses Jake matures and it is interesting to watch the transformation. The guy is a serious diaster in the beginning, but by the end I was certain he would get his act together.

The chapter in which Jake dog-naps Mars is hilarious! It could stand on its own as funny sketch comedy. I don't think I ever laughed quite so hard w
Lydia Presley
Aug 08, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2010, 1001
It's always astonishing to me when I'm exposed to a book I would never have picked up and find myself lost in it, and that's the very reason I have been working my way through the 1001 Books list.

In UNDER THE NET Jake Donaghue is a failure of a writer, a bum, a leech on his friends and, despite being an adult, views the world almost as a child does. He never thinks an action through to the consequence, he treats his friendships lightly - taking them for granted or doing stupid, silly things to s
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a high 3, but I just couldn't quite stretch it to 4 stars. It started out wonderfully, then slowed noticeably for about 100 pages. That's a lot of slow for a book only 250 pages in length. But it finished very strongly.

Jake moves around London a lot, and many London neighborhoods were mentioned. That might have been meaningful to those who live in that great city, but I was unable to grasp any significance. I had no way of picturing those neighborhoods nor of knowing anything about thei
Jul 13, 2010 Shelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list, read-2010
I really, really enjoyed this book. Iris Murdoch created a wonderful illusion for me. The plot was a bit light relying on several coincidences that I saw coming - however, terrifically complex and original characters, humour, and a touch of philosophy made this one of my favourite reads of 2010..
May 16, 2015 Karl marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This Edition published by Chatto & Windus, London as part of "The Collected Edition", note this is not part of Reprint Library's series.

This is Iris Murdoch's first book first published in 1954.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Guardian Newspape...: July 2016 - Under the Net 13 12 Oct 20, 2016 09:08PM  
Snippets That Ins...: Works of Art? 1 1 Sep 24, 2016 06:19AM  
Boxall's 1001 Bo...: July {2010} Discussion -- UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch 26 168 Aug 16, 2010 04:34AM  
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1-3)
  • Loving
  • Studs Lonigan
  • The Death of the Heart
  • Zuleika Dobson
  • The Old Wives' Tale
  • Appointment in Samarra
  • Falconer
  • The Man Who Loved Children
  • The Assistant
  • The Ginger Man
  • A Handful of Dust
  • The Day of the Locust
  • Parade's End
  • The Way of All Flesh
  • The Sheltering Sky
  • A High Wind in Jamaica
  • The Berlin Stories: The Last of Mr Norris/Goodbye to Berlin
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...

Share This Book

“I hate solitude, but I'm afraid of intimacy. The substance of my life is a private conversation with myself which to turn into a dialogue would be equivalent to self-destruction. The company which I need is the company which a pub or a cafe will provide. I have never wanted a communion of souls. It's already hard enough to tell the truth to oneself.” 162 likes
“For most of us, for almost all of us, truth can be attained, if at all, only in silence. It is in silence that the human spirit touches the divine.” 41 likes
More quotes…