Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Elegy for Iris” as Want to Read:
Elegy for Iris
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Elegy for Iris (The Iris Trilogy #2)

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  729 ratings  ·  91 reviews
With remarkable tenderness, John Bayley recreates his passionate love affair with Iris Murdoch--world-renowned writer and philosopher, and his wife of forty-two years--and poignantly describes the dimming of her brilliance due to Alzheimer's disease. Elegy for Iris is a story about the ephemeral beauty of youth and the sobering reality of what it means to grow old, but its ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 20th 1999 by Picador (first published January 1st 1999)
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 Elegy for Iris, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Elegy for Iris

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,188)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Christopher Roth
This book was already known to me as the memoir of Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's, written by her husband while she was still alive. (Never saw the movie.) I was less disturbed by the tragedy of Alzheimer's than by the unsettling dynamic between Iris and John and what it reveals about each of them—most of it revealed unwittingly by the author. It was already known that she continued to have a richly populated bisexual sex life after marrying John, but this is not what bothered me: after ...more
Aug 23, 2007 Bryan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misogynists
John Bayley was told by a woman in similar circumstances to himself that “being married to someone with Alzheimer’s disease is like being chained to a corpse”. Unfortunately in this self-indulgent memoir of 40 years of marriage to Iris Murdoch it seems that Bayley himself has been the perpetual corpse, meekly and dutifully trailing along after his formidable wife and responding to her every demand. Even when she fully succumbs to dementia he fails to respond to the frustrations of the situation, ...more
From IMDb:
True story of the lifelong romance between novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, from their student days through her battle with Alzheimer's disease.>

Kate Winslet ... Young Iris Murdoch
Hugh Bonneville ... Young John Bayley
Judi Dench ... Iris Murdoch
Jim Broadbent ... John Bayley
Penelope Wilton ... Janet Stone

It's curious to see 2 characters from Dowton Abbey, Hugh Bonneviile and Penelope Wilton playing together in this movie. And Kate Winslet and Judi Dench are sple
Rebecca Brothers
I read Iris Murdoch in college with my professor Dr. Roberta White. I loved Murdoch's brilliantly smart fiction. When Dr. White told us the author had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, my thoughts immediately jumped to the loss we would all have as her brain collapsed in on itself. I was dating the man who would become my husband, and I knew his grandfather had early-onset of the same disease. I had watched him try to talk to his grandfather, to reach the man he loved so much, and I had w ...more
Peggy Bonnington
I had to switch my four stars to three, and I'm sure it's worth four or even five stars to most readers. It's just that I had difficulty getting through the random memories and ruminations John Bayley brings to this book. Again, I lay the blame on myself rather than the author who is obviously learned, highly intelligent and intellectual (although he spends much time downplaying or protesting this). It sometimes reads like a literary circles name-dropping fest, other times is so introspective in ...more
John Bayley's memoir of his life with Iris Murdoch, the renowned writer and philosopher is a beautiful but sad story. His love for her leads him to a luminous memoir of her brilliant life and their love for each other. He poignantly describes the dimming of her brilliance due to Alzheimer's disease. Elegy for Iris is a story about the ephemeral beauty of youth and the sobering reality of what it means to grow old; filled with touching moments that seem almost too personal but are beautiful anywa ...more
Elegy for Iris is charming, heart-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring. John Bayley writes with great love about the quirky courtship and subsequent marriage he shared with his wife, the novelist Iris Murdoch. I was struck by what seemed to be Mr Bayley's own unreliable voice as narrator. I found myself aching to hear Iris's version of events. Of course that is the tragedy at the heart of the book; Iris Murdoch succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease. Bayley's great contribution are wry descriptions of ...more
John Bayley’s memoir about his wife, award-winning author Iris Murdoch, who was still alive at the time he wrote this - but her mind was almost entirely lost to Alzheimer’s Disease.

I picked this up because I liked the movie; I watched the movie not because I’d ever heard of Iris Murdoch but because it stars Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as the older Iris and John, and Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville as the younger versions. That’s a great team of actors, and the movie is good.

I found the book a
Elegy for Iris is, like the movie, like two stories wrapped into one.

The first is about the early days of romance and marriage for the book’s namesake, author Iris Murdoch and her husband and the book’s author John Bayley. The story starts in the 1950’s with them meeting and the nature of their relationship. Murdoch and Bailey’s open relationship and marriage was, what we would now call, polyamorous. That worked for them. At least according to what the author wrote, it did and there is no reason
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

"A melodious, affecting tribute to one of the greatest writers of her time--now stricken with Alzheimer's disease--by her devoted husband of over forty years "I was living in a fairy story--the kind with sinister overtones and not always a happy ending--in which a young man loves a beautiful maiden who returns his love but is always disappearing into some unknown and mysterious world, about which she will reveal nothing." So writes John Bayley about his wife, Iris Murdoch, considered by
Touching memoir written by Iris Murdoch's spouse, John Bayley, is a splendid window into her writing. It makes one want to read more of her books and wish there could been more. The author handles her darkening days fraught with Alzheimer's disease with grace, honesty and love.
James Klagge
A memoir by her husband of Iris and their life together. Her life ended with Alzheimer's, and so did theirs together--the book is written from that perspective. I was interested to read the book for that reason, and from an interest in Murdoch as a novelist and philosopher. Bayley's descriptions of her Alzheimer's time sounded genuine and were touching. The book is not very revealing or engaging. Murdoch seems to have been a very inward person, and her husband does not have much insight into her ...more
John Bayley schreef deze ode aan zijn vrouw, de beroemde schrijfster Iris Murdoch, tijdens de laatste jaren van haar leven, terwijl haar geheugen langzaam wordt weggevreten door Alzheimer. Hij vertelt over hun jonge jaren, toen ze elkaar ontmoetten op de universiteit waar ze allebei werkten. Zij was in alle opzichten zijn meerdere, zeker op intellectueel vlak, en hij gedraagt zich dan ook opmerkelijk onderdanig tegenover haar, wat ook tot uiting komt in zijn schrijven. In deze tijd zouden ze zeg ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire

This is a memoir of Iris Murdoch written by her husband after she's been overtaken by Alzheimer's disease. Judging by the fact that I have Judi Dench on the cover of my copy rather than Iris herself I'm guessing it's been made into a film.

Murdoch was a favourite writer of mine for a long time. That makes it sound like I don't like her any more, I'm sure I do. I just haven't read anything of hers for a long time. Probably because she wrote her last book in 1996ish just before the Alzheimer's diag

As I seem to do, I read this 2nd of 3 books as my first introduction to both Iris Murdoch and John Bayley. I want to read more, but my understanding of the two, and thus the book, may be limited by my starting in the middle. The book has a restrained, dreamy style of narration that would occur if one were sitting in a garden in a summer evening with a friend. As would be expected, the book is peppered with literary and artistic references serving to illustrate and make arguments. Some are well k ...more
The title of John Bayley's ''Elegy for Iris'' is a little misleading since the Iris of the title -- Iris Murdoch, the novelist and philosopher, to whom Mr. Bayley is married -- is still quite alive, both in the pages of this memoir and in reality.

But Ms. Murdoch suffers from Alzheimer's disease, as Mr. Bayley, himself a literary critic and novelist (''The Red Hat''), reveals in the second chapter of his touching book. He writes: ''The power of concentration has gone, along with the ability to fo
Angie Fehl
I really had not heard of Iris Murdoch before reading this book. I did see the movie based on the novel which was beautifully done but this book is even more touching. It is the written account of Iris's day to day life from the perspective of her husband, literary critic John Bailey. He begins with when he first met and became enthralled with her and continues up through 40 yrs of marriage and her later unfortunate slide into Alzheimers disease. His account of their life, good times and bad, i ...more
Library Shelf
Oct 14, 2007 Library Shelf rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for:
A husband's memories are stirred in this reflective piece about his wife, the author Iris Murdoch. He remembers how he fell in love with her, courted her. From falling in love, to little springing jealousies of her influential literary friends he presents his life and marriage with a woman whom he loves. When Iris, known worldwide for her novels and literary contributions loses her recall and memory at a presentation, John becomes aware that something his amiss. Their routine of comfortable cozi ...more
Well, being that a movie was made out of this book I thought for sure that meant that it would be a decent book. Unfortunately I was wrong. I mean, come on. Judi Dench. Kate Winslet. Has to be good. Nope. This is a memoir written by the husband of Iris who is a victim of Alzheimer's. I have read memoirs, and I understand that a memoir is usual less captivating than a novel being that it is about someone's real life, but then minus the fact that this is not written by the person whom it is about, ...more
I always love a good story of unconditional love. John Bayley gave us just that in Elegy for Iris. Like any love story, he started at the beginning of falling in love with Iris Murdock to the later years of their marriage when he loved her even though she was absent.

I regret not being familiar with Murdock' s work prior to reading this memoir. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more had I read her novels. John Bayley gives us the backgrounds, life experiences and thought processes behind some of
This was for me an introduction to Iris Murdoch. It was sad in a number of ways, firstly to witness such a brilliant woman becoming a shell of the person she was due to her Alzheimer's. I found the one-sided adoration of John for Iris sad, the fact that he could gloss over her apparent affairs, the squalid state of their house etc.

Once I started reading, I looked up references to people mentioned in the book, photos of their house and I've reserved a few of Ms Murdoch's books from the library.
Linda Gaines
I read several of Murdock's novels years ago. You could tell she was brilliant. Sad in a way to read her husband's tribute to her as he cares for her as she becomes more and more affected by her memory loss. He tells of how they met and married and of other British writers of note. Most is of his feelings as he tries to keep on with the difficult job of caregiving. He is very honest about how hard it is to stay positive and not let the anger show.
There is a very good film of the story, Iris.
It's amazing the memories that old reading lists dredge up. I read this for the first time at the laundromat on South Alpine, seated in a hard plastic chair, waiting for polyester work uniforms to dry and trying to tune out the noise of others doing laundry and watching TV.

I suppose these memories are fitting, as much of this memoir involves the day-to-day and the domestic, as John Bayley remembers his life with Iris Murdoch once brilliant and vivacious, now reduced to a shadow of her former sel
John Bayley's memoir of his life married to Iris Murdoch, who (as you may have noticed) is one of my favorite novelists. The word to describe this book is "LOVING" (hello, no surprise, right? but the first words to come to mind were "playful" "tender" "wise" "truthful" which I guess all go into love). So Good. He bookends his memories of their courtship, wedding, and settling down with detailed descriptions of their current (circa 1997) life together, when she was deteriorating with Alzheimer's. ...more
Mike Jensen
A beautifully story, beautifully written. The book may be characterized as a love story after the lives of the lovers have run their course. Bayley takes us from the time he first saw Iris Murdoch until shortly before her death. Alzheimer's disease is a specter running through even the first pages, intruding, as it will, on Bayley's memories of his life with Murdoch. It is never far away, for their entire life together was a prelude to his role as her caregiver.

The feelings run deep, the tone an
Cindy Jacobsen
This 'elegy' (a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead) certainly is a reflection of a life gone as it tells the story of Iris Murdoch by her husband John Bayley. It rambles around the years circling back to her Alzheimer's disease. For a relatively short book it felt like it would never end.
E Wilson

The first part of the book was boring to me. John's infatuation with Iris was a little pathetic. The whole history of their early
life together seemed very mundane. There is nothing wrong with that,
but just not much to make interesting reading.

The later part when he relates Iris's struggle with Alzheimer's
disease and his struggle with being her caretaker is more interesting.
It's seems as they were both lackadaisical housekeepers and cooks
throughout their life so it was especially hard for him
Ruth Govaerts
Een mooi, gevoelig boek. Vooral het laatste deel dat zich in de (toen) tegenwoordige tijd afspeelde vond ik heel mooi, maar natuurlijk ook wel erg treurig. Er waren wel veel verwijzingen naar boeken en schrijvers die ik niet kende, maar dat is misschien juist interessant...
I watched the movie Iris with bookgroup a couple of years ago and found it surprising, beautiful and haunting. I just ran across the book it was based on, written by her husband and decided to read it. The setting is Oxford, England, there are fairly easy to understand literary references. It is about Iris Murdoch and John Bayley's somewhat unorthodox marriage before and during Alzheimers. It chronicles their travels, friends and deals with a sad subject with grace and humor. 4 1/2 stars-there w ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 39 40 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer's
  • Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's
  • Death in Slow Motion: A Memoir of a Daughter, Her Mother, and the Beast Called Alzheimer's
  • Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter
  • Life in the Balance: A Physician's Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia
  • The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon
  • Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Courtroom to the Kill Zones
  • A Buffalo in the House: The True Story of a Man, an Animal, and the American West
  • The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule
  • Don't Leave Me This Way: Or When I Get Back on My Feet You'll Be Sorry
  • Called To Question:  A Spiritual Memoir
  • Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir
  • Under a Wing: A Memoir
  • A Circle of Children
  • The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland
  • [sic]
  • Out of Egypt: A Memoir
  • The Norton Book of Women's Lives
Professor John Bayley CBE, FBA, FRSL is a British literary critic and writer.

Bayley was born in Lahore, British India, and educated at Eton, where he studied under G. W. Lyttelton, who also taught Aldous Huxley, J. B. S. Haldane, George Orwell and Cyril Connolly. After leaving Eton, he went on to take a degree at New College, Oxford. From 1974 to 1992, Bayley was Warton Professor of English at Oxf
More about John Bayley...

Other Books in the Series

The Iris Trilogy (3 books)
  • Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch
  • Iris and Her Friends
Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch Iris and Her Friends Widower's House The Power of Delight: A Lifetime in Literature: Essays 1962-2002 The Iris Trilogy

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »