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The Black Prince

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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,240 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Bradley Pearson, an unsuccessful novelist in his late fifties, has finally left his dull office job as an Inspector of Taxes. Bradley hopes to retire to the country, but predatory friends and relations dash his hopes of a peaceful retirement. He is tormented by his melancholic sister, who has decided to come live with him; his ex-wife, who has infuriating hopes of redeemin ...more
Paperback, 444 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1973)
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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
3rd out of 29 books — 35 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëMrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Great Women Authors
79th out of 672 books — 142 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aubrey
3.5/5

The term "unreliable narrator" is a popular one in literature. As are "creativity", "art", and "great", words whose definitions are thrown around so quickly that the mind can hardly fix on one before another, more "truthful" one is sailing past. As if truth had anything to do with it.

Let's start with the "unreliable" part of the first term. Unreliable how? What standard of reliability do we actually have at our disposal? The simplest answer is the book itself, an answer that quickly devolve
...more
Paul
I read this years ago and thought it was hilarious, especially when the old prissy geezer was taking the young lovely student he was hopelessly in lurve with to the Opera and was so excited and overwhelmed by the whole inebriating ineffable scrotum-bedevilling lurve thing that he vomited all over the row in front. Which quite curtailed the passion for that evening.

I actually re-read this not that long ago and it wasn't quite so side-splitting but the vomit scene still brought forth a few chortle
...more
Maureen
Mar 26, 2012 Maureen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ben, who will either love it, or hate it, but might find it of value in either case.
Shelves: novels
once again iris murdoch makes my head explode. each time i think i'm in the wrong place when i start: everything seems so conventional and normal, even boring: so british, and calling, and tea cups and all, and then, oh then, it just sort of explodes into sparks of clarity dancing around sordidness combined with philosophy -- its meditations primarily on art, and love. i found several lengthy sections to type out, after the quote below, but cannot now bring myself to do so as the book has exhaus ...more
Brad
Assuming that The Black Prince is a fair representation of Iris Murdoch's work, I think its unlikely I'll read any more of her books.

That's not to say she's a poor author, nor is it to suggest I didn't like The Black Prince. She is a fine author, and I liked The Black Prince well enough. But my experience with this book and what that means to my future engagement with Murdoch's novels is a bit like my experience with swimming laps in the local pool without a loftier purpose: neither is worth the
...more
Christin
Granted, I did not pick this book, but I did blindly and eagerly consent based on the fact that I had heard of Murdoch's work and as a result of my experience with other British/Irish women novelists being so rich and rewarding, assumed I would love it. Oh, folly! Iris Murdoch is a philosopher (and a lover of Sartre, worst offender of all, if you ask me), and I generally make it a rule never to read the novels of philosophers because they know shit about character development and even less about ...more
Ben Loory
i loved this the same way i love every iris murdoch book. and it doesn't surprise me that this is probably her most famous book-- it's long and complex and full of great characters and all perfectly set out and cut like a diamond and overflowing with wonderful sentences and thoughts about art and life and love and all the rest. for me though it was just a little too normal. it's a book about people and the way they interact. it doesn't quite have the shimmering fantastical intensity of, say, The ...more
Elizabeth
This book sat on my shelf for 6 months. Finally, in an attempt to clean out my house and return over-due borrowed items, I picked it up. And didn't put it down! This book covers the entire gamut of the feelings of love, from initial infatuation, the spiritual well-being of love's first throes, and the stomach-turning emotions of love's ending. All that, plus such a beautiful look at the highest purity of true ART, within writing, music, and friendship. This book is a must-read for a mature under ...more
Robert
A strange and convoluted tale of love... or at least, such is the way it describes itself. But it seems Iris Murdoch's real purpose with the text is to offer the reader the disorienting experience of traveling across a highly nuanced emotional terrain with a Prufrockian narrator who is attempting to be "set the record straight", and in the process creates more questions, doubts, and uncertainty.

It is a book within a book, told in the first person by the "author" of the text... and even goes a s
...more
Manny
As usual, I just can't remember a thing that happened, at least to the extent of assigning it to this rather than some other Iris Murdoch novel. Probably an insane billionaire has a scheme to destroy the world and 007 needs to infiltrate his shadowy organisation, having sex with several hot women en route and finally defusing the atomic weapon when there are only seconds left on the clock.

Wait. That was the other series, wasn't it? In that case, pretty much the same, but take out the atomic weap
...more
Chris Alexander
I admit it, I'm a slow reader. It probably took me well over a year to read this book. It wasn't that it was bad (in fact it was quite good), but it comes down to finding the time. Every time I would start getting into it, something would pull me away. I love the British author Iris Murdoch and it's been years since I last read one of her philosophically engaging novels. After a lot of debate, I finally settled on this one and it did not disappoint.

The book is a typical rich tapestry of characte
...more
Fiona
Haven't read this in years either. Irish Murdoch was shortlisted for the Booker for this wonderful novel written in the 1970s. Hasn't dated at all. She has characters and plot on a string. Brilliant realisation of first person narrative, and a story within a story. The narrator is typically grey, British, mediocre and of the pre Thatcher era, completely out of sorts with his own and everyone's feelings and emotions, sexual or otherwise. At times bleak, mostly ironic, hugely amusing, nearly a sit ...more
Jamie
very engaging and has the quality of making you see your life as being a little more sinister than before:

The natural tendency of the human soul is towards the protection of the ego. The Niagara-force of this tendency can be readily recognized by introspection, and its results are everywhere on public show. We desire to be richer, handsomer, cleverer, stronger, more adored and more apparently good than anyone else. I say 'apparently' because the average man while he covets real wealth, normally
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Max radwin
This book leaves me feeling very conflicted. Bradley Pearson has all of these ides about art and happiness and love. They seem so true and gave me new lofty perspectives and concepts to think about. The book ends abruptly and then you discover several post-scripts from the still-living characters. These post-scripts make the entire novel. They destroy the entire piece of writing by Bradley. You enter his world and accept his philosophies as true and are ready to walk away content. Then they dest ...more
Agnese
I guess I've never read a book like this. It's a crazy novel, but at the same time very romantic, with tense plot. Middle-aged man falls in love with his best friend`s daughter. She is about 30 years younger than he. I actually don't believe such love and I'm right. It never existed. Bradley imagined it and wrote a book about other things and relationships that never happened.
I wish the end was better. I really hoped that the love was real and it would stay true and last for a longer period of
...more
Tara
This book is fantastic. It uses some pretty clever literary devices, but instead of it all being the tool of some pretentious artist, it's kind of about something bigger. It's great. The scene where one of the characters flips out and falls on the floor is tremendous. Iris Murdoch has some books which are just, eh, but altogether she was a tremendous thinker who was able to translate that into her books in a way which was never stuffy. And when she does a great job, she does a a really really gr ...more
Despair Speaking
For books like this, it's important that the reader will sympathize, understand, or like the main character even if it's just a little. But I could not bring myself to do any of these things. I was already bored by the end of the first chapter but forced myself to continue since I was hoping it would redeem itself eventually. Unfortunately, it didn't.

And you know what? I couldn't even bring myself to care.

Honestly? I thought the death was just placed there in hopes of making things interesting,
...more
Cameron
Amazing. One of those books that you don't really know what the hell it is until about half to three-quarters of the way through. Difficult to describe, perhaps a black-comedy-meets-domestic-farce-meets-character-study-meets-thriller? At about the three-quarter point, becomes absolutely unputdownable. Murdoch is a brilliant writer.
Kristel
First of all, let me say, I do not understand why people dislike this book.

That being said, let me say that I enjoyed this book and thought it was a great work. The reference book for 1001 calls it a literary thriller and I think that is accurate. It is a book of “what is the truth”. Yes, all the characters are flawed. I enjoyed so much how the author presents the story as a story being told by the main character Bradley Pearson, an older man with writer’s block. He tells us he is trustworthy b
...more
Laura
Feb 19, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chrissie
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie (Goodreads Reader!)
Just arrived from Cairo, Egypt.

The story of Bradley Pearson who acts as the narrator and hero into this story. I cannot tell anything else in order to avoid spoil it. A GREAT book, to be read for those who like a quite original plot.
Sketchbook
Iris, you're tired. Take a break, go for a long walk.
Núria
'El príncipe negro' se parece muy mucho a la otra novela de Iris Murdoch que he leído, 'El mar, el mar', hasta el punto que a veces parecen dos versiones de un mismo punto de partida: un tipo bastante detestable y nada fiable como narrador, en plena pre-crisis de los 60, se empeña en vivir una historia de amor algo ridícula, mientras a su alrededor se congregan una serie de personajes que le estorban en su empeño. Se ve que no es porque todas las novelas de Murdoch se parezcan tanto, sino porque ...more
Sarah Newton
My first Iris Murdoch, and I read it through in a week, increasingly obsessively. The plot is simple yet convoluted; the story occasionally borders on farce; the setting is the London (and environs) of the early 1970s, with some wonderful period features (including an obsession with the Post Office Tower). But where the novel really takes off is on its ideational and technical levels.

Murdoch has the most extraordinary facility with dialogue. Quite incredible; her ability to convey complex and c
...more
Pip
This is an incredible novel.

Besides being some of the most wonderful (British) language, and a host of curious characters, there is some very thoughtful stuff here.

Take the "editor" for example, whom I took to be Iris herself, as she must have been the one to struggle with being Pearson's jailer. And perhaps I confirmed this when I looked up the name Loxias and learned it is an alias for the Greek god Apollo, especially as it relates to him being an Oracle. Indeed, but what questions were aske
...more
Michelle
It is amazing how Iris Murdoch is able to create such a compelling narrative with such unlikeable characters. This book is riddled with comic characters that make you stop and think, "No, there's no way anyone could possibly be like this!" - Bradley included.

Murdoch repeatedly references Hamlet, and it does seem as if there are some parallels. (Priscilla as Ophelia, Rachel as Gertrude, Arnold as Claudius) The book takes many elements from Shakespeare, I think - Bradley's monologuing, rash love,
...more
L
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Perry Whitford
A self-obsessed writer is keen to be alone and escape in secrecy from his social circle to a cottage by the sea, but instead finds himself haunted by both his past and his present. Sound familiar? It will do if, like me, you have previously read Murdoch's Booker Prize winning novel 'The Sea, The Sea', for they share virtually the same premise and plenty more besides, more of which later.
As you can infer from the title, similitudes with the plot and psychology of Hamlet abound throughout 'The Bla
...more
Laurabean
Bradley Pearson, as well as many other things, is obsessed with Hamlet. One of the cleverest elements that connect this text with Hamlet, is that I do not believe that the reader can ever really know what the true outcome of the novel was.

While we are given an explicit account of what Bradley believes to be the case, we have the choice of taking his own account of his mental state; taking the (admitedly flawed) accounts of other characters; or making assumptions based on our own knowledge.

Just
...more
Amber
I loved this book. It had a little bit of everything - a crazy action filled plot, lots of achingly beautiful language, scandal, minor philosophizing, and of course love.

What I learned:
There was a lot to think about in this book about truth, perspective, age and death, gender, love, art. I loves me some deep thinking narratives. Mostly the book just made me wonder and that is the best kind of book in my opinion.

What I loved:
The language was beautiful and the plot was killer. I haven't read any o
...more
Zach
"This is a form of insanity, Bradley. Only the insane think there are planes which are separate from other planes. It's all a muddle, Bradley, it's all a muddle. God knows, I'm saying this to you in kindness."

A muddle indeed.

Ok, so Bradley Pearson (B.P., you see?) is a "writer." He's the author of this text, sure, but the discerning reader will quickly realize that he is in fact a tax man of some sort. He is surrounded by an impressively realized cast of caricatures, a bumbling group of parasite
...more
Bob
Martin Amis (in his more or less essential collection "The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000") refers to this as one of her best. In it (or with it), Murdoch plunges full-scale into the realm of the Nabokovian unreliable narrator and even, I think, tips her hat directly to Lolita and Pale Fire in spots. Lots of plot developments (usually in the form of marital infidelity) tend to keep her books moving rapidly and she's not above a bit of melodrama - in some cases she gets her char ...more
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What is your favorite novel by Iris Murdoch? 5 24 Apr 30, 2011 06:32PM  
  • Sour Sweet
  • Blind Man with a Pistol (Harlem Cycle, #8)
  • Bunner Sisters
  • Eva Trout
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
  • I'll Go to Bed at Noon
  • Ending Up
  • Alberta and Jacob
  • Frost in May
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Fantômas (Fantômas, #1)
  • Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding, #2)
  • According to Mark
  • The Ordeal of Richard Feverel
  • August Is A Wicked Month
  • Aaron's Rod
  • The Children of Dynmouth
  • The Sound of My Voice
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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...
The Sea, the Sea Under the Net The Bell A Severed Head The Unicorn

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“Every artist is an unhappy lover. And unhappy lovers want to tell their story.” 22 likes
“We defend ourselves with descriptions and tame the world by generalizing.” 16 likes
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