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The Book and the Brotherhood (Penguin Fiction)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  897 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Many years ago, one of their number writes a political book. Time passes and their opinions about the book change. The theft of a wife further embroils the situation. Moral indignation must be separated from political disagreement.
Hardcover, First American Edition, 607 pages
Published 1988 by Viking (first published 1987)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Right or wrong, Marxism is sexy, dangerously sexy like a perverted love relationship that ends up with the accidental murder of an innocent.

I love Murdoch's writing. She makes me think and feel intensely at the same time. The characters in her novels critically think their feeling and earnestly feel their thinking; thinking and feeling balance and enrich each other. Through her writing, I get the sense that morality is more than sentimentality and has a rational, though disturbingly twisted and
Christopher Roth
I would have given this more stars, since it isn't better or worse than most other Murdoch books I've read and loved, but I think I may be burning out on her a bit. This one was just too long, and, you guessed it, it is once again about a group of layabout intellectuals in their thirties or forties in London, half of whom are bisexual and are sleeping with each other, their tangled lives swirling about a blazing-eyed, sinister, Svengali-like intellectual who has an inexplicable hold on all the c ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[These notes were made in 1990:]. Another Murdochian phantasmagoria of character and philosophy. This one is about ... oh dear me, a dangerous way to start a sentence! The central characters in this novel (that's better) are linked by having been at one time a left-leaning group together at University. Several of them are pitching in to support one of their number while he writes a major book. Trouble is, not only have their philosophies diverged over the many years it has taken, but the author ...more
Alex Ankarr
I'd literally forgotten that this Iris Murdoch even existed. Or that I was once briefly obsessed with it. ...more
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Approaching a 600 page book of any kind is always a little daunting for me but this twenty-third novel by Iris Murdoch was a delight. It focuses on a group of friends who primarily met at Oxford and their relationships since then, thirty odd years on. Several of the group has paired off at one time, one has died and there are several instances of unrequited love with only Jean and Duncan a couple at the beginning of the novel. The relationship between these two and their friend’s involvement in ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Book and the Brotherhood is a generous helping of political and social intrigue for the mature philosopher. With around twenty major characters, as I began the book I found it difficult to keep track of the Gullivers, Gideons, Gerards, Jenkins, Crimonds and Duncans so I made a chart to help me remember who had been tangled up with who.

Irish Murdoch's prose is obsessively wicked and consistently gorgeous throughout the 600 pages. Despite their similar names, the characters are so distinct, I
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a long book -606 pages. It has long paragraphs - sometimes a whole page - and long sentences. There is little plot and lots of inner turmoil among the characters. It's not for everyone, fact is most novel readers wouldn't like it; but Iris is a great writer and I felt like I knew the characters. I didn't empathize with them as I live an entirely different life and am an entirely different person; but then I read novels and biographies to encounter people other than myself. ...more
This is one of Iris Murdoch's most complex and philosophical novels, and is full of her trademark humour and quirky plot twists, a many layered narrative which covers a multitude of ideas. Very enjoyable, but probably not the easiest of her books to start with. ...more
Gary Branson
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only bad thing about this book is its title. Wonderful characters, well drawn, good pacing, good build up of tension. One of her best. Only 3 more Murdoch titles to go, one I’ve already read a few years ago.

Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, realism
An OK read but not Murdoch's finest accomplishment, in my opinion. I appreciated the "book and genius" element -- a core of the story -- far more in The Message To the Planet, for instance.

It may surprise people who casually browse my reading-lists, where weird and horror stories fill the landscape, but Murdoch is actually one of my favorite writers. I enjoy her language and her philosophical thinking beneath everything she writes. She can, as very few manage, get me interested in a kind of "rea
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smart, sharp and witty, this keenly-observed book is a no-holds barred examination of the lives of a close-knit group of privileged friends. Once the bright and beautiful, time has taken a toll on their aspirations and relationships, and nothing has quite turned out as they had planned. The intrusion of an old friend - now recast as ethical and intellectual nemesis - into their lives precipitates a series of crises with lasting consequences.

Part novel of manners, part novel of ideas, Murdoch kee
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 23rd Iris Murdoch novel, and so the 23rd book of the Murdoch a month Challenge undertaken by a small group of us. Although we are now reading them every other month as the books have got quite large. This one at about 600 pages is pretty meaty.

The book opens with a party at an Oxford college – a group of friends many of them former students of that college are present. Past and present seem to collide that evening, the effects of which are felt by the characters and the reader throughout the
Jerry Pogan
I can think of lots of things I would rather be doing than read a 600 page book that I didn't enjoy but I did it anyway. This is basically a literary equivalent of a soap opera filled with mostly unpleasant characters. It is for the most part a plotless story loosely centered around a group of friends and their interactions. If there is anyone in the book who stands out it is Crimond who is writing a book that his friends are backing but he can never seem to finish. Probably, the thing I dislike ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If someone in one of my book groups who would be willing to stick with this book for the first 300 pp, they'd finally get some perspective of what's going on. There are class issues where money is used benignly to control friends. There are old school issues where old classmates form such a close group that they can't seem to free themselves to form their own individual families. Mostly it's about control. The violence is incidental. Perhaps the philosophy and politics went over my head, or perh ...more
Portia S
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-authors
Holy shit, I took a year to finish.

Wonderful read examining the intersecting relationships among a group of friends and the book they have commissioned on their binding belief of Marxism.

Like The Sea, the Sea; there are elements of obsession, a man wants to love a woman to the point that he owns her, controls her and ultimately is destined to devour her.

Beautiful work, can't wait to read more of her books.
Dec 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, borrowed
A longish (600 pages) book telling the psychological evolution of a multitude of characters, faced with a few new events and a long common history. Unexpectedly, it did not get boring, even after hundreds of pages. Probably because of the frequent changes of the narrator's point of view.
Stephen Brody
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Other people’s lives are so mysterious.”

* * * * *

I don’t think much attention has been paid to Iris Murdoch not only as one the most outstanding novelists of the twentieth century but as its social chronicler. That function has sometimes been accredited to Anthony Powell (“the English Proust” to use a rather wild comparison) in his twelve-volume Dance to the Music of Time, but Powell was a little older (born 1905), inhabited an altogether grander world and didn’t proceed much beyond the 1960’s
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
*contains a few spoilers*

I have read a few Murdoch novels now, and though I really enjoy them they always have the same problems. Her MO is to assemble:

1. An interesting premise
2. Very good characters
3. A solid sense of reality
4. Great descriptive prose which is lyrical without being too flowery.
5. Various subtle background themes and a lot of echoes to ponder after reading.

This continues happily through about 3/4 of the book. At some point she seems either to lose interest, funding, or outrigh
May 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This struck me as a somewhat peculiar book, but then I read it during a very stressful time, so maybe it was me who was off and not the book.

Murdoch drops the reader in among nearly 20 characters right off the bat, and I had to do a fair amount of flipping back and forth before I got them straight. The main characters were at Oxford together (in the '60s, I gather) and reunite at a dance some 25 years later. Much of the drama (such as it is) revolves around a somewhat unpleasant and creepy char
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: worth-re-reading
I just finished what actually was a re-read of this book, which obviously means I liked it enough the first time to want to read it again.

It is a typical Iris Murdoch novel, which means if you're not into her books, you're probably not going to like this one either.

Plot: A group of friends at Oxford decide to 'sponsor' the most brilliant, poor and eccentric member of their group to write 'the book that will change the world'. The book will of course be a political book and the writer has Marxis
This book moves so slow, and terribly dry.
Ms. Murdoch just never does get to the point with this one.
She fails at causing exitement for the reader even during the most "tragic" parts of the book, which are made to seem really no more tragic than crossing the street, sucessfuly.
If you want to read extensive passages regarding the colour and fibre content of a character's bargain bought pullover sweater, while she trollops about the party, across one terrace to the next; all the while doing relati
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
all my reading time is being sucked up by trying to finish this on some kind of misguided notion on my part that I needed to read an iris murdoch book. I find all the characters unlikable and I don't really care what happens to them one way or the other. I find the plot and plotting boring and predetermined. Murdoch does not seem to write with an invisible hand--it reminds me of Zeus moving the figures of humans around. Maybe for that reason I don't find the characters having any 'realness' to t ...more
Apr 28, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A labored writing makes for a labored reading, coming to an anticlimax which may well make you kick yourself for having put yourself through the ordeal of reading the massive tome leading up to it. As for the feel of the writing, to quote a song title from the Gang Of Four, "Natural's Not In It". ...more
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
loved it. So evocative of the whole Oxford scene. Intellectual. Compelling. Read it probably nearly 20yrs ago. Understand it all SO much more, thanks to Sir Ian. Love how my life experiences give me more in-depth insight. Loved it.
Gilion Dumas
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murdoch is at the top of her game with this novel. She is droll in the telling, but forgiving with her characters, never sarcastic, and comfortable with moral ambiguity as she tells their stories without drawing conclusions or passing judgment.
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
There's an excellent review of this in Stephen Fry's "Paperweight". ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nobody meticulously builds to a climax quite like Murdoch. A new favorite.
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this novel some thirty odd years ago, shortly after it was published. At that point I hadn’t read anything else by Iris Murdoch, and had picked it up on the basis of a newspaper review and a recommendation from Lucy, the manager of the old branch of Dillons in Covent Garden who had the most amazing green eyes, and could easily have persuaded me to buy virtually anything, or even everything, in the shop.

Lucy spoke with straight tongue, and I remember being enthralled as I slowly work
All the charm and attraction of a train wreck. Terrible to watch, impossible to ignore. It was also surprisingly similar to a soap opera. The only differences I noticed: no one mysteriously vanishes, no surprise genetic relationships, and no evil twin materializes, brimming with wealth and vengeance, having spent a decade building an empire in some hot country. The Book and the Brotherhood (which will hereafter be abbreviated to The Book because I'm lazy) also has more philosophical debate than ...more
Martin Ramsay
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In her ongoing discussion of philosophy versus magic the existence of beasts and creatures (as opposed to to animals) is central to Murdoch's observations of the tortured existence of her human characters. In her1988 novel 'The Book and the Brotherhood', these human characters struggle to be 'good' trapped in a world of consciousness and language, divided from each other and from being-in-themselves by rational minds. After 'The Good Apprentice' this is the second novel in what Harold Bloom pred ...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.


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