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The Sacred and Profane Love Machine

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,158 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Swinging between his wife and his mistress in the sacred and profane love machine and between the charms of morality and the excitements of sin, the psychotherapist, Blaise Gavender, sometimes wishes he could divide himself in two. Instead, he lets loose misery and confusion and—for the spectators at any rate—a morality play, rich in reflections upon the paradoxes of human ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 6th 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1974)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  1,158 ratings  ·  102 reviews

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Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I feel a review of this book wouldn't do it justice if the reviewer did not somewhere in the process describe one or more recent dream. The most recent dream I can recall is of myself at a funeral, filling the casket with colored pencil stubs. You know, when the pencils become too short to sharpen and some people use epoxy resin to make them into vases or bowls or guitars. Well, it seems I'm much more adventurous than that.

Iris, I have no doubt you would have described this dream so much more b
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2019
This was my 20th of Murdoch's 26 novels, so it is increasingly difficult to find much to distinguish it from the rest of her ouevre.

This one centres on a married psychotherapist Blaise Gavender and his relationships with his loyal and trusting wife Harriet, and his mistress of nine years Emily, both of which have given him sons. These are the sacred and profane loves of the title. The other main character is their neighbour Monty Small, a recently widowed writer of spy thrillers who helps Blaise
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
i have an iris murdoch headache. she made me cry like she always does, and i feel vaguely like i've just eaten a huge piece of blue cheesecake, heavy and hypnotic in its dense richness, dotted with sour bits, not too sweet. her people are very real and audacious. they are crazy and they are convincing. i think, 'yes, this is very true, people are like that, damn them.'

i would argue that there's not really a main character in this novel but rather it concerns a coterie of characters: david and h
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5) A later Murdoch – her sixteenth novel – and not one I knew anything about beforehand. In terms of atmosphere, characters and themes, it struck me as a cross between A Severed Head and The Nice and the Good. Like the former, it feels like a play with a few recurring sets: Hood House, where the Gavenders (Blaise, Harriet and David) live; their next-door neighbor Montague Small’s house; and the apartment where Blaise keeps his mistress, Emily McHugh, and their eight-year-old son Luca. A sizea ...more
Ivana Books Are Magic
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
“You know what. You've killed me and sent me to hell, and you must descend to the underworld to find me and make me live again. If you don't come for me, I'll become a demon and drag you down into the dark.”

― Iris Murdoch, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine

Now, that’s the kind of love than is a joy to read about, if not to experience. About two pages into this novel, I was ready to propose to this ingenious piece of writing. Let's for the purpose of this metaphor imagine I really went searchin
Rose Boehm
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I just looked it up in our wonderful Wikipaedia and found that Iris Murdoch wrote 27 novels, the rest of her writings philosophy, plays and poetry. I haven't read them all, but by comparison The Sacred and Profane Love Machine stands out from the rest which is also excellent, of course. Well, what can I say about Iris Murdoch that hasn't been said before - and better.

What is so very enjoyable in any book by Iris Murdoch is how she uses her vast knowledge, studies, readings - in short her knowle
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
I am very mad at this book right now. Even though I finished it six months ago. Still, angry. I think I should give it higher stars, because it was making me think and feel things in ways I don't usually do. I was getting kinda crazy. I wanted to hurl the book away from me, but it wasn't because it was bad. She simply knows how much people and things suck sometimes, and how they suck in a lot of unique and terribly self-deceptive ways. So, while this book is brilliant about people and deserves w ...more
What marks Irish Murdoch's novels is her benevolence. The main theme of the novels is love, love requited and unrequited, normal and abnormal. Terrible things may occur in her novels or be related by one of her characters but there is no indulgence in evil no presentation of it with malicious intent using realism or plot as a pretext for something unwholesome. The driving ambition of her characters is often victory in love. Defeat is frequent and harrowing but ultimately her faith in love prevai ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading The Sacred and Profane Love Machine I could not contain my mind from whispering Zelda Fitzgerald’s quote:“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” . Iris Mudoch explores through her characters a world of pain and agony in contrast with inocence, each emotion being closely supervised by each one’s conscience... Child or adult, gullible or cynicle, characters choose to lie or to accept lies in order to maintain an ordinary life; until the unconceivable ...more
Dec 18, 2006 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, britlit
Sacred and profane love. A man with 2 families - his "sacred", or legitimate family comprised of his wife and son David, and his "profane" comprised of his mistress and son Luca. These families slowly start to unravel and take the participants down with them. Exploration of the meaning of love and neverending quest for the heart's satisfaction.
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't think I've ever read another book with quite such a convincingly fully-fleshed cast of characters. This is my first Murdoch, but I assume this ensemble psychological interplay stuff was her thing, seeing as she did it so well here. This is one of those books that makes you realise you could never be a writer, because some people really are just so damned good at it...

I can't say that I loved TSaPLM. It was engrossing as I was reading it, but whenever I put it down I felt disinclined to p
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it
I have tried Iris Murdoch's work several times and have always bogged down and given up. This one tempted me to do the same, since it's not the kind of novel that appeals to me--it has hardly any plot: it's more an agonizing situation, repetitively described from multiple characters' perspectives, with, finally, some actual events that precipitate a very surprising conclusion--one which Murdoch clearly enjoyed, since she fooled the reader with a false one near the end. One Goodreads reviewer com ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

The Sacred and the Profane has all the elements you expect from an Iris Murdoch novel, a suburban/London setting, love affairs, tortured souls, dislikable characters, tragedy and a whole array of symbols and tropes that appear again and again in her books. It focuses on the Gavender family, Blaise, Harriet and their son David, their connection with three other characters, Emily, Pinn and Luka, as well as Monty their neighbor and his friend Edgar.

Blaise is a psychotherapist and, as with
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved how Murdoch probes into the thoughts and emotions of each character, her astounding clarity of writing be it in dealing with their emotions or mapping out the escalation of situations. Her analyses of relationships are sharp and incisive -- sometimes too much so, I feel, but it never feels contrived, rather as if these characters of hers had spent far too much time thinking about themselves and the state they are in than seems possible for such ordinary people. She writes sentiment and e ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Sacred and Profane Love Machine concerns the absurdly tragic and the tragically absurd. It's a send-up of the ridiculous cycles people get caught up in. This dark satire contains a wealth of social commentary and sober reflection. It shows the bleakness of life while satirizing marriage, affairs, and human connection. It is, in short, Vintage Murdoch.

Blaise Gavender is a psychoanalyst with a loving wife, a teenage son, and a lovely house in the country. He also has a mistress in London and h
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was an amazing read. Hands down one of my best reads of 2013. I had never read one of Ms. Murdoch's novels before, but had heard of her notoriety as quite a prolific British author of the post-modern era. I had read about her in literary journals and such as well as hearing the odd question to an answer about her on Jeopardy. I was aware of her noted philosophical treatment of good and evil in many of her works, but for as much (or rather as little) as I knew, I always seemed to put of ...more
Feb 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Julia by: Fiona DeYoung
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper-books
(#46 in my Year of Reading Women)
Why do I always find Iris Murdoch so frustrating. I feel that I should enjoy her work far more than I actually do. This is a middling work, and there is a lot to intrigue me as a reader: Murdoch takes what looks to be a "happy" marriage and proceeds to tear it apart. The "Love Machine" in the title is, unfortunately, nothing like as salacious as you might like it to be - it's more (I think, but I'm not certain) that the "machine" is about how love, in both its sa
I saw someone reviewed this novel as "a British love pentagon" and I thought, hey, that was my life back in the day so why not re-live a little PTSD (yes, I did experience nightmares of British men with gapped teeth, considerable noses, and patchy facial hair while reading this). I was not disappointed, either. I mean the incest was a little much, but I get all the Freudian sexual, mother-son, theories, I GET IT, REALLY. I just wish there was a little more homosexuality, but this isn't my autobi ...more
Bryan Murphy
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This novel is perhaps interesting in showing how the English language has changed in the last 40 years, or at least how the writing of novels has changed, though I suspect Murdoch was writing in a style already considered old-fashioned back in 1974, and I suspect she relished doing so. Her sentences are often long and rarely straightforward. She does an enormous amount of telling, especially about her characters' feelings, fantasies and self-delusions. It is the psycho-therapist who deceives him ...more
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When people tell me they find Iris Murdoch hard going, I can see their point with this book. Its very dense and with long long pages of characters inner thoughts with comparatively little actual action/plot. But to me therein lies her genius. This is normal people, inflicting damage on each other - marriage, infidelity, conflicts of maternal love, jealousies etc - as normal people do. Murdoch, I think, deliberately sets this in very ordinary suburban setting. No gothic mansions or crumbling chur ...more
Another poignant book written by Iris Murdoch.

4* Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995
5* Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch
5* Iris Murdoch: Dream Girl
4* A Severed Head
4* The Sea, the Sea
4* The Black Prince
4* The Bell
3* Under the Net
3* The Italian Girl
4* The Sandcastle
4* The Sacred and Profane Love Machine
TR A Fairly Honourable Defeat
TR The Nice and the Good
TR The Philosopher's Pupil
TR The Good Apprentice
TR The Red and the Green
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I struggled with how to rate this book. I hated the ending -- it made me angry, in fact. However, up to the last 30 pages, I loved reading this -- gave me a lot to think about. I couldn't put it down.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
ack. this book took me forever to read. i just kept waiting for something about it to engage me. it never happened.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ends as a punch in the stomach.
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the best Iris Murdoch I've read yet
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Came for the title, stayed for the philosophy and psychoanalytical underpinnings about love.
Rykel R
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
In this arbitrary and brutally indifferent world, Iris teaches us to live more honestly.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read a hundred pages and realized that while I loved the writing, I couldn't care enough about the characters and so stopped reading.
Italo  Perazzoli
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the novel "The Sacred and Profane Love Machine" is a philosophical battle between two question; are we able to live without God? if so How Will Be Our behaviour? and it will follow What is Honesty? is it the feminine universe better than the masculine?

In other words this novel is a portrait of insignificant people but extremely able to inflict suffering to their similar.

Reading The Sacred and Profane you will be surprised about the characteristics of Blaise Gavender he is proud of having a do
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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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