The Message to the Planet
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The Message to the Planet

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  244 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Iris Murdoch's 24th novel, a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller, explores the meaning of life in a story of love and betrayal, faith and doubt. "Murdoch works with an intellectual daring most writers only dream of".--The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Paperback, 576 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1989)
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Persephone Abbott
I am not going to say that I enjoyed reading this book. I was rather fascinated, however, and I certainly was curious when the kiss of Judas was going to appear. Marcus Vallar, genius, child genius burnt out in adulthood has many people expecting him to formulate the big revelation that would change mankind. Others think he's potty and suffering from any number of mental illnesses. His friend Ludens would like to help Marcus deliver the hoped promise of the unfulfilled genius so he trails Marcus...more
Gayathri
My very first Murdoch. At 600-odd pages in fine print, this book is seriously voluminous! Though the book was probably written in 1980's, the writing is very austere for the age; almost Victorian. This book, if narrowed down, has a couple of protagonists, with the story switching between the lives of these two and at times, bringing the two together. The story is about a central event and its effect on all the characters that come in contact with this event. The characters are very real; their o...more
Jane
Nov 29, 2010 Jane added it
Another theme that insinuates itself into some Murdoch novels is the question of the boundary between genius and madness. Here the genius is, like many of her central characters, struggling for perfection, in this case a union of spiritual and intellectual perfection. His clarity of focus, when turned on another person, can result in joy, healing, or alternatively, devastation - thus the fascination of his character. One way of looking at the mystery in this story is: if we do happen to be one o...more
Bob
The central character is Marcus Vallar, a brilliant but seeming unstable mathematician who peaked quite young, had a brief second career as an abstract painter of note and, at the time of our story, enters a high-class mental institution while simultaneously serving as a Messianic healer figure for the local New Age travelers who take time out from a pilgrimage to Stonehenge to cluster around him. The chronological setting is identified as mid-80s by a single fleeting reference to AIDS, but a ce...more
Anne
I think this was my first Iris Murdoch, and I'm surprised about some peoples negativity around the book. I LOVED it, better than any of her other books I've read (which I admit don't include what would be considered her classics). What I loved was that it was so unpredictable - both the characters and the plot. It drifted without structure - I mean that in a good way - and it brought me as reader to totally unexpected places. A bit like a fantasy novel but set in reality, or a examination of a p...more
Nancy
This was a very difficult book to rate. To say "like it" is both inaccurate and inadequate, but it will have to do. I am exhausted; confounded; conflicted; and depressed. But also stimulated.

Yesterday, at a book luncheon, author Amy Bloom commented that "really good books do more than distract." So, taking in to account the above description of my condition at the conclusion of this book we must agree that The Message to the Planet did much more than distract me.

Murdock is the author of one of m...more
Alex
560+ pages of densely packed script to describe the doings of as fey a clique of arty farty academics and artists as you could ever hope to meet. Exquisitely written, with some surprisingly beautiful descriptions of the natural world in passing, it delves into the big philosophical questions while at the same time detailing the finer points and pitfalls of managing a menage a trois should you have any ambitions in that direction. Written in her later life, there is sufficient hint of obsession w...more
Sadie
I don't know many people who read Iris Murdoch and I totally get it. She's smart. Smarter than me. Smarter than you. And she likes to write about philosophy. The trouble is that she explores these philosphical ideas through domestic dramas which means that ordinary readers have difficulty with the text and stop reading and serious readers aren't going to pick up her books because the plots seem so mundane. Now granted, the plot to this book is anything but mundane but it is dense and difficult t...more
Nathanial
Oct 10, 2011 Nathanial added it
Shelves: fiction
Murdoch does it again! Richly seasoned spread of characters in a group portrait covering three distinct, varied and multifaceted settings (landed estate, city flat, at village sanitorium). Plays with us just long enough to let us figure out we don't need to know who the protagonist is when her central subject is interior action: how do moral acts play out in real life?
Sue Bird
I think her alzheimers was setting in at this point.
Wendy
my first Iris Murdoch novel, don't know how I missed reading her for so long. Must confess I chose to read it after watching the movie about her. Putting the novel in context of what the movie portayed , makes it a lot easier to place her plot in the context of her life. Not an easy or entertaining read, but I still felt compelled to keep going to find out the ending. Central themes are: misdirected love ( almost Shakespearean ) , cultism vs established religion, the fallout from the Holocaust,...more
Jody
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in January 2004.

Towards the end of her career, Murdoch's novels got longer, following the general trend in fiction over the last couple of decades. Both The Message to the Planet and The Book and the Brotherhood are about twice as long as Under the Net or The Bell. The problem with the extra length is that Murdoch did not really seem to have more to say, and with The Message to the Planet I felt that a fair amount of the book seemed tedious, not an accusation...more
Ali
Synopsis
I must admit this one is nowhere near being one of my favorites although I did enjoy it overall. There were however things that annoyed me or that I found tedious.
This is a big novel, with many recognisable Murdoch themes. Obsession, religion, love and death among them. Alfred Ludens has been obsessed with Marcus Valler for years, Marcus missing for years is discovered. and Ludens sets out to being him back to London and to lift a curse from an Irishman who, believing the curse to be rea...more
Sachahaworth
This is the first Iris Murdoch that I've ever read. I picked it up mostly on the basis that I believe she is a well regarded writer, because the blurb on the back is really vague as to what the book is actually about.

Essentially it follows a group of several friends. One of their number, Patrick, has fallen deathly ill and no one knows why. He repeatedly complains that a curse has been put on him by a person previously known to the group: the mysterious Marcus Valler, a wandering intellectual w...more
Christina
If you saw someone perform something that seemed to be a miracle, would you believe it to be a miracle or would you try to find some rational way of explaining it? When days, weeks, months had passed, would you still be convinced you had seen a miracle or would you instead think that you must have been mistaken?

Patrick is dying. He has been sick for a very long time and now, the doctors have given up on him. He is lying in Jack and Franca’s house and Franca is taking care of him while trying to...more
Janice
Murdoch stalls halfway through this saga of a charismatic "philosopher" who's either moving into a realm of paranormal power or who is just barking mad. Murdoch's protagonist--the philosopher's diligent disciple, determined to wrest a brilliant moral treatise from the great man's tortured thoughts--is like a dog with a bone, and the narrative flags for long stretches as Murdoch illustrates his rather unvaried tenacity. Things finally pick up, and there are rewards, as usual, in the constellation...more
BrokenTune [Disclaimer: My opinion is not paid for by Amazon.]
I tried for almost half the book, but just couldn't get into it. I couldn't figure out when the story was set, didn't warm to any of the characters, and the plot just left me cold. So, I gave up. It's a little disappointing because I loved the other books I read by Iris Murdoch, all of which either had a gripping plot or, as The Bell, were littered with quite humourous scenes.
Isla McKetta
It's not really fair to mark this book as "read" because I couldn't finish it. Night after night of reading six pages at a time. I wanted so much to like this book because I like the idea and I like Iris Murdoch, but I couldn't keep the characters straight and no amount of effort could make me care about them. I gave up after sixty pages.
Mary-Anne
Dec 26, 2013 Mary-Anne added it
Shelves: abandoned
Why get an american narrator to read an English book? Had to abandon, hopeless.
Christopherch
Some good well crafted set-pieces, as to be expected. Overall though too long, really dipped in the middle and just couldn't engage with the characters.
Mags
Dec 23, 2007 Mags is currently reading it
sooo good. complex relationships on so many levels. well developed characters. exquisitely beautiful prose. insightful to the soul.

love iris
Alex
What a storyteller she is? Enjoyed the book a lot although I skipped through some of the denser, metaphysical dialogue.
Rosa
I always love Murdoch's writing and characterization ... but I always find that her books are a bit too long.
Alan
Interesting but a bit slow in the middle. I didn't really warm to any of the characters either...
Marzia Bianchi
Amazingly pretentious book filled with incredibly self-absorbed people.
Nancy
Though I recognized it's importance, I just couldn't get into it.
Arthur
Feb 23, 2007 Arthur is currently reading it
just started -- not sure how tasty it is yet. will keep you posted.
Anil
Anil marked it as to-read
Sep 04, 2014
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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
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