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Good Apprentice

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  962 ratings  ·  70 reviews
"A brilliant entertainment." (Harold Bloom, The New York Times Book Review)

Edward Baltram is overwhelmed with guilt. His nasty little prank has gone horribly wrong: He has fed his closest friend a sandwich laced with a hallucinogenic drug and the young man has fallen out of a window to his death. Edward searches for redemption through a reunion with his famous father, the
Paperback, 528 pages
Published January 6th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1985)
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Erin Quinney
"What a load of hogwash." Yeah, that's what went through my mind every time one of these awful and self-absorbed characters went off on a pseudo-intellectual soliloquy about their latest unbelievable drama. Oh, and the italics. They were simply dreadful and overused and distracting. Every other word was in italics. I didn't like any of the characters. Not a single one. I felt bad for Stuart because everybody hated him and told him so and he was the only one who showed a shred of decency. I still ...more
five or six perspective characters, all from very close third POV, usually introduced by a long passage of dialog without hardly any tags like "he said," or "she slapped him," just a segue of blank space on the page, a preface to set the scene, and then four of five pages of solid dialog, followed by five or ten pages of intricate internal monolog.

she's crazy good at giving a sense of distinct characters' changing states of mind, and does some wild acrobatics with plot twists and convergences wh
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So after years of hearing about her--murkily, if admiringly, I now realize--I have finally dived in. Murdoch is...awful. What's worse, she is awful in all the things she lavishes so much care--or at least pages--on, so that it doesn't feel like an accident, with better novels awaiting me.

Take Jungian archetypes (the elvish sisters, the wizardly men, the Death portents in human form, the innocent hero on a quest, the evil stepmothers), stir them into a soap opera plot of crises, coincidence and
André Bogaert
Hoe gaat een moderne mens, die niet (meer) in God gelooft, om met de kronkels van zijn innerlijk leven: met schuldgevoel, doodsverlangen, verliefdheid, trouw en ontrouw, vriendschap enz. Iris Murdoch legt de pogingen van haar tijdgenoten om met die innerlijke realiteiten klaar te komen in het lang en het breed vast in haar boek: De Leertijd. Ik raad het boek aan aan al wie zich zorgen maakt om de mens van morgen, de mens die door het wegvallen van de eerder geruststellende en in die zin gemakkel ...more
Iris Murdoch novels always seem like transmissions from an alternate history where upper-middle-class British intellectuals enact 20th century life crises in the manner of stately 19th century novels. They’re all great (if all more or less the same), and everything hangs together beautifully and everything, but I always have a background impression of Patrick Stewart running around the Holodeck in a coachman’s hat or something. In fact, in The Good Apprentice, Edward would be a clear Wil Wheaton ...more
Dense with closely knit characters (three or four families) and improbable (deliberately improbable) coincidences. The weird commune/shrine to the still-living "god" artist Jesse will probably stick with me longest. The catalytic event is striking: what can a young man who inadvertently kills his dearest friend DO in order to cope with the rest of life? Many of the other inclusions seem oddly beside the point: characters entangled in a rather ordinary love affair (but not graced with the quiet p ...more
Murdoch is a highly respected author, but this is just plain boring, with stilted conversations that are totally implausible & repetitious. The author is just way too self-indulgent, which is too bad, because the moral themes at the heart of the story could be compelling.
Stephen Brody
It would take a very bold, impertinent, critic to say that any of Iris Murdoch’s mature novels was ‘best’. Nonetheless, I’ll risk that audacity and give first place to The Black Prince and The Sea, the Sea, closely followed by this one. Murdoch is not just a superlative master of English prose but of Englishness, and how is that to be summarised – hearts of oak with shiftily variable foliage? Deceit and ambiguity are built into the language, and here at its most subtle joy and grief, love and ha ...more
Specifically, I rate the audiobook with 3 stars. I have loved Iris Murdoch's writing and have counted her as one of my favorite writers. Her books have eccentric characters, are beautifully worded, philosophical, and psychological. Nothing happens, they are terribly long and British.

I began thinking about the experience of audiobooks. This one went on forever. I realized I read faster than listening to an audio book. And I love words, looking at them, mulling over them. I really like reading to
This is my first read of Iris Murdoch, and after taking a while to adjust to her, I found myself completely absorbed. The book follows the internal emotional workings of half a dozen characters in response to changing events in their lives. While I was reading this book, I was asked several time what it was about. As my reading progressed, I found myself answering that the book is about good and evil (terms I don't use frequently or lightly), but that it's not simple... it's very complex. Nothin ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Julia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of british novels & the philosophy of ethics
It's a familiar enough device: two brothers choose (or are fated to) opposite but complementary paths, and literature ensues. In this case, one searches for redemption from his own crushing guilt, and one wants to live a life beyond moral reproach -- both try to do so without the nudge of a belief in a higher power. Iris Murdoch is a trained philosopher, and this is a very British novel, rife with symbolism & achetypal allusions. I liked it, but it was long in spots and the dialogues/inner m ...more
This is another amazing Iris Murdoch book, the fourth that I have read. It took me rather a long time to get into it, however: I struggled with the lengthy dinner-party passage near the beginning, and a ‘dramatis personae’ list would have been useful to help remember who is who and how they are all related.

Part two of the book, taking place in a ramshackle kind of castle called Seegard, left me astonished. A mysterious, dominant matriarch lives at Seegard, with her two daughters, leading a kind
How are we to live now that God is dead? This is a dominating question throughout Murdoch novels.
In The Good Apprentice one suspects that Jesse represents God in the act of disappearing.
As the pages turn there is time for different readings of a character or the character's actions, and here Jesse can at times be thought of as symbolising something quite different.
The example of Jesse I would extend to many of the situations that arise in the book, the characters, their actions.
One is clearly le
Jennifer Hu
Because she was one of the 20th century's most important female philosophers, I decided to give Murdoch's novel a shot. Edward falls into a pit of guilt after lacing his friend's sandwhich with drugs; his friend falls out of a window to his death. The story is loony and peculiar rather than terribly gripping. Probably would have appreciated more had I any background in moral philosophy worth speaking of.
This book drove me nuts, though I read it all the way through. Too much coincidence in the story line for plot device, weirdly portrayed characters, weak main character ... I could go on but I will not. Because that would keep reminding me how much I disliked this book.
So many edgy jokes about "repressed homosexuals", yawn.
Tracy Kendall
"Where there are people there's mess."

Not my favorite Murdoch, but now that I'm done I am glad that I read it. Took 150 pages to get into it, but then I felt fairly hooked. The world that Murdoch created at Seegard was so odd it was the most compelling aspect of the story besides Edward's process. The Seegard family was spooky and strange, and at the end I'm left with too many questions about Mother May's intentions, moral character and motives.

Edward became a substantial character, he was enou
Jonathan Shaw
With an audiobook, there are always two things to review: the text itself, and the narrator's treatment of it.

Regarding the text: it's a great story about a young man's experience with remorse for accidentally causing his friend's death. The title is misleading -- Stuart (the "good apprentice" who is seeking to do good) is not the main character. Rather, the narrative focuses on Stuart's brother Edward, and how he deals with his intense feelings of guilt. Stuart and other characters are describe

I enjoyed this Iris Murdoch novel - the 22nd read in the Murdoch challenge- although I think it is a little over long. I really liked poor old Edward, and sort of liked Stuart although he isn't such a presence in the novel. After the death of his friend, Edward is in a terrible state - guilt and self hatred drive him away from his home. He arrives at the home of his natural father whom he hasn't seen since childhood. Here he finds a rather different way of living, an almost monastic household, h
[These notes were made in 1987:]. Like all Murdochs, this is a tremendously involved and complex novel, but there is at least emotional unity to it - or perhaps I am merely more attuned to this unity than I have been in her earlier stuff. This novel is about grief and loss - living through it, surviving it, taking responsibility for your actions without destroying yourself. It also, as the cover blurb quite rightly says, is about the problem of being good. Plot? There's Edward, a heedless young ...more
Redemption lies in forgiving yourself and improving your psychological outlook, whether with therapy, drugs, or both - this is Murdoch's take on our increasingly secular and individualistic moral code. Though this is a rather pessimistic view, after reading the book you feel like it is honest. It's hard to give a quick summary of this book. It's about a lot of things - seeking redemption, foremost, but also trying to 'know' your parents, infidelity (lots of that), revenge, understanding love, un ...more
Tom Busillo
What I liked: Iris Murdoch is a brilliant writer. Pick a random page and you will in all likelihood find a very complex sentence that will make you go "Wow! Now that's a sentence from a brilliant writer." And it's amazing how deeply she plumbs the depths of these characters.

What I didn't like: This is one of those novels that feels like eating a large plate of brussels sprouts – which is good if you're a big fan of brussels sprouts, but I prefer cauliflower lightly sauted in garlic and oil.

For f
The struggle to be good shows up in all of Murdoch's work, along with the question of how to cast that struggle in a post-theistic age. She also likes to create 'alternative realities,' which are endlessly available due to the rich variety of notions and delusions of even the most ordinary people.

Perhaps it's inevitable that intense young people who are struggling heroically to be good will end up stumbling into an alternative reality. In this case that world is the creation of another powerful
Janet Berkman
An exceptional novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 1985, this book reads like mythology. The characters' lives are intertwined by birth, relationships, and happenstance. The central figures are half brothers Edward and Stuart, each seeking a kind of redemption. The former is complicit in the death of a friend, and the latter seeks a life of study and chastity. It is difficult to describe the plot in detail as there are numerous twists, but I found myself drawn into their world and a v ...more
Some very hard to like characters in some awful predicaments often of their own making. At times they became too much but other times I was propelled forward by the excellent writing as I slid in and out of each character's head.
Marta Kule
In its scope and the number of words per subject it reminded me a little of Atlas Shrugged, and similarly I was glad to have listened to it because if I were reading it, I might have skipped a few paragraphs of introspection, letters or lengthy dialogues. Yes, it was about Britons who think and talk too much and fuss about their feelings, but there is something compelling in Murdoch's writing that makes me want to read more.
When I begin an Iris Murdoch novel I always think I am prepared for what's coming. I never am. This book is as dark as it gets. Murdoch relies on characters, so many characters, riding the razor's edge of sanity to tell her story. Each one with a little more twisted tale than the last. The writing, as always with Iris Murdoch, is artistic. She makes a walk in a meadow, or a drink in a bar an experience, and not always a pleasant one. I found myself searching for the symbolism. Does this represen ...more
I hated this book and especially the spineless and hopelessly arrogant attitudes of British colonial snobs and pathetic males. Stopped at page 100 with better books to occupy my time.
Unfortunately, "Apprentice" is an uneven novel. All of the ideas & intense thought that Murdoch puts into her work are there, but the execution is not as strong as her earlier books. Her characters are flat & not very interesting, yet there are scenes that can really perk a reader's attention. What turned me off was the style of her writing. The sentences were very jerky & run-on, to the point where I was flat out appalled by the state of some of the passages. I would recommend any o ...more
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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 about Iris Murdoch...

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