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The Black Prince

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,355 ratings  ·  374 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, 408 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,355 ratings  ·  374 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
For fans of the author’s The Sea, The Sea, here’s a great book that has a similar tone and structure. The similarities with The Sea: we have a just-retired divorced man who has rented an ocean-front cottage. He has always ‘used’ women and treated them callously; old flames return making theatrical appearances at his door at inopportune times. These include his ex- and he assumes she wants to get back with him, which may or may not be true. And just like The Sea, we have a murder, an attempted mu ...more
Adam Dalva
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is, somehow, my fourth Iris Murdoch novel in as many months, and some of her tendencies have become apparent. Here too we have a foppish, marginally asexual middle aged man who experiences a not-so-good awakening; we have a third act tragedy involving a supporting character; we have a bit character who scarcely ever appears but is mentioned frequently to give the illusion of time passing; we have philosophic departures into the nature of love; we have a queer supporting man who willingly be ...more
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dissatisfied with my review, I need to say a few words more. It is difficult to properly explain how real the characters become. What each one does is what that person has to do. There are characters that will frustrate you. You ask yourself, “How could he do that!?” On reflection, you realize this is exactly what such a person would do. Each character IS who they are. Bradley is not capable of confronting problems He tries but inevitably fails. His pestering, annoying brother-in-law ends up bei ...more
Paul Bryant
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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

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
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
Marija Simić
3,5 stars.

I just really enjoyed this book at the beginning. It's indeed an unusual one. I both, like and dislike the main character, Bradley, and overall, all characters in this book. And I am that type of a reader, who is perfectly aware of character's age, but still always picture it as a young(er), and often, I create his physical appearance, although author clearly describe it (as opposite). I don't know why I do this. And, also, I wonder, do I picture characters in books like young ones, be
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 10, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Whew! I finally finished it. I wanted to score this book higher. It was an excellent book, but I wouldn't say I "really liked it" as the GR ratings go. The prose was just too dense for me to really enjoy it.

The characters, however, and the story are engaging and absorbing. At no point did I not want to finish the book. The characters were engaging though not very likable. Still, I am glad I read it.

This is going to sound odd. But it is a very wet and windy sort of book. It made me feel as I do
Saint Monique
Jan 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics
1,5 'Thank God it's the end' stars

Maybe this is a little harsh rating considering that the writing style of this book is rather good. Actually, the last two pages almost convinced me to round it up but then I remembered the other 500 pages and stuck with my first decision.

The Black Prince is my first (and probably only) book by this author but I can clearly say that Iris Murdoch was a phenomenal writer. Sadly, all the characters in the story were so repulsive that the whole time I was reading th
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hilarious, stylish, and profound--what more do you want out of a novel? A master class in unreliable narration.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Almost any tale of our doings is comic. We are bottomlessly comic to each other. Even the most adored and beloved person is comic to his lover. The novel is a comic form. Language is a comic form, and makes jokes in its sleep. God, if He existed, would laugh at His creation. Yet it is also the case that life is horrible, without metaphysical sense, wrecked by chance, pain and the close prospect of death. Out of this is born irony, our dangerous and necessary tool."

A Jude the Obscure for a, more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Iris, you're tired. Take a break, go for a long walk.
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion this is Murdoch’s finest novel – I read many of her novels in my 20s, but none has made me contemplate love and morality in any sort of deep level as much as this book has. I could rave on about this book for hours, but I would rather rave on about how angry the introduction by Martha C. Nussbaum made me! I cannot fathom how Nussbaum can have left out so many literary allusions made in the book.
First, while she does speak of Plato’s Phaedrus – and yes, it deserves mention – more
Funnier, lighter and more in-depth, from a stunning caricature accuracy.
This work is in the line of Virginia Woolf, Lispector or only of Sylvia Plath; to quote a few female authors.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Black Prince is a novel that is framed as the biography of one Bradley Pearson, beginning with a foreword by an editor whose identity is never revealed. Bradley is another of Iris Murdoch’s aging, male characters flawed in so many ways and he is particularly self-indulgent and self-obsessed while also insecure and anxious. He is constantly disparaging those around him whether it’s the female characters such as Christian his wealthy ex-wife, poor Priscilla his suffering sister or Rachel the d ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It might be most dramatically effective to begin the tale at the moment when Arnold Baffin rang me up and said, "Bradley, could you come round here please, I think I have just killed my wife."
Thus begins Bradley Pearson's narrative, entitled "The Black Prince: A Celebration of Love," which follows the Editor's Foreword (written by a friend of Bradley's) and Bradley's own Foreword. If that line doesn't get you hooked, I don't know what will. The book within a book format is all part of the c
Real Readers Book Club (Liz) - April 2018

Recommendation from Triin (@wordchild) - 10/6/2017

Last night was our monthly meet up for our #RealReadersBookClub. I’ve been so anxious to discuss this literary gem. This time we all were pretty much in agreement with our ratings. But, I loved that each of us got something different out of the novel. I appreciated all the philosophical musings about art and the creation of art. Murdoch applies this theme throughout many of her novels, this one in particul
Elizabeth Kennedy

Iris Murdoch described her ideal reader as “someone who likes a jolly good yarn and enjoys thinking about the book as well, about the moral issues.”

The Black Prince is most definitely a “jolly good yarn” - full of dramatic action and vivid characters. Murdoch adds all sorts of philosophizing about art and love in a way that didn’t overwhelm or take away from the story. It all certainly made me think.

Bonus- multiple unreliable narrators - I just can’t get enough of unreliable narrators!

Mark Buchignani
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: iris-murdoch
The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch reads like an absurdist farce or a goofball skit – at least at first: the protagonist and narrator, Bradley Pearson, a would-be writer (three published volumes in some thirty-five years) is bombarded by social interruptions, even though he repeatedly states he has retired and wants only to leave the city to focus on creating what he believes can only be a great novel.

But instead his ex-wife's down-and-out brother shows up, then he’s entangled in his friend's marr
Alex Sarll
I used to get through them fairly regularly, but it's been a while since I read any Iris Murdoch. Partly, this was the terrible deus ex machina ending to the last one I attempted; partly that I was working my way through Alms for Oblivion, which approached similar terrain in such a different spirit that I didn't want to risk their frequencies interfering. But as soon as I slipped into this, it was like coming home. The largely superfluous prefaces and narrative hedging-about whose fastidiousness ...more
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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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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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