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An Accidental Man

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  585 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
A scintillating novel of fate, accidents, and moral dilemmas

Set in the time of the Vietnam War, this story concerns the plight of a young American, happily installed in a perfect job in England, engaged to a wonderful girl, who is suddenly drafted to a war he disapproves of.

What is duty here, what is self-interest, what is cowardice? Austin Gibson Grey, the accidental man
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 1st 1988 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1971)
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Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Iris Murdoch novels are a known pleasure, but it had been so long since I read one that I'd forgotten how delicious they are. No other author has ever made such racing narratives out of moral muddles and doubts of the metaphysical kind, and puzzling over which philosophical rants are likely to represent the true Murdochian view is half the fun. Humor and tragedy both have their moments in this novel of the sixties, which revolves around a young American man's decision to stay in England to avoid ...more
A complex book with many characters, not one of whom is both sane and likeable, and many who are neither! There is no single main character or even a main plot, yet lots happens (which makes you keep reading), but in some ways, nothing does (which makes it frustrating).

An odd mixture of conventional narrative, sections of correspondence and quickfire unattributed and disjointed dialog at parties. The latter two styles felt like a shortcut to move the story along. I also found the repeated use of
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Even better than the others I've read. Totally awesome writer. Amazingly well realised characters. I think she should be studied at university.
Tariq Mahmood
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british
Its a remarkeable how Iris manages to keep me captivated with a weak plot. I think her stength lies in character presentation and subtelity. The accidental man is man who is making mistakes but not living in guilt and regret for too long. He is a modern man, happy to live and feed off from the women in his life again without much shame attached. Iris shows how people can create an imagination in which they are never to blame for their own mistakes.

I love the book, as I saw too much of myself in
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Murdoch treasure. A series of unfortunate events™ lead characters in a whirlwind of tragedy, humour, opportunity, absurdity, novel writing, bathtub suicide, dodging the draft, engagements, comas, and the like. A criticism on the common vanity we share and how our selves can only give so much sympathy to others - the letter writing sequences nail this sentiment and revelation. Plus the doubling within this novel was a delight - not expected, not necessary, but well timed.
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Murdoch must be more of a misanthrope even than me if she takes this view of people. I'm not such a modernist that I need a hero but this is surely the most contemptible bunch of characters of any book I've read. The philosophy is thin and the dialogue artificial. Still it is hard to not be sucked into the drama. Between this book and the last I read by her if she uses the word uncanny one more time I'm going to scream.
Kristine Morris
About 30 pages in, I thought, "Damn, this is going to be hard to get through" and yet I must because it's been chosen by my book club. And then it kind of grabbed me. Never have a read such a jumble of miserable characters. I liked how she alternated between prose, letters and the party one liners. Lots of stuff going on in the novel with no real plot. Looking forward to discussing with my book club.
May 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I found this to be an excellent Iris Murdoch novel. Big complex ideas, typical cast of Murdochian characters all of whom are somehow connected to the others. This is actually a very readable, even gripping read. Many of Murdochs usual themes are present, although toned down a bit, from her earlier novels. Overall very enjoyable, although there were a couple of characters who irritated me.
Dec 18, 2006 rated it really liked it
Shelves: britlit, fiction
The story of an incestuous upper middle class English family, their many friends, and one imposter, Ludwig. The scholarly American, accidentally born in Great Britain, is avoiding the draft for the Vietnam War by staying in his parent's adopted country.
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-discussion
The best I can say about this book made up of secondary characters is that it was an interesting experiment. None of these characters are very likeable, but there are enough "accidents" to keep the story moving along.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Too many characters! Mitzi, Maisie, Clarice, Caroline... can't keep them or their houses straight.
This was my first encounter with Iris Murdoch. I think she's a bit too overwrought for me.
Stephen Brody
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it

“Dimly she learnt one of the most important of all lessons, how art can console.”

“Things that were relative once are absolute now. One feels it’s the end of the line. Politics and war used to retain some decencies….No nation could destroy another, governments couldn’t get at their subjects, and in the interstices of it all human beings could flourish…”

“It’s amazing what a lick of paint and some Regency wall-paper can do”.

“Love is not time’s fool, it takes no account of locks - or of Locke”

* * *
John Cairns
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I didn’t know what to make of it. There was no emotional effect from what had been most interesting throughout. I realised I had yet to read the introduction to An Accidental Man. I hadn’t wanted to read it beforehand, to avoid corrupting my innocent eye. I must’ve known which character failed the moral test on watching two strangers knife another when I was reading but by the time I’d finished I was attributing the failure to another character. I’ve done that before, conflating two characters, ...more
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: murdoch
i don't believe i've read story one from this is a 1st, paperback version, 1971...dedicated to kreisel...

on the cover: "a scintillating novel of fate, accidents and moral dilemmas."

ummm. i'll read this, despite the cover blurb...

she has quite a list of stories...looks like 20 or more, couple works of non-fiction...story begins:

'gracie, darling, will you marry me?'
ludwig leferrier stared down into the small calm radiant unsmiling face of gracie tisbourne. was it co
"Austin was a curious man. He inspired love. He inspired fear.",, 1 January 2015
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews

This review is from: An Accidental Man (Paperback)
My first attempt at Iris Murdoch's work, and difficult to review, as although I recognise that the quality of writing, the deeper messages on morality etc, mean it's probably worth at least 4.5, I didn't desperately like it.
Opening with the breathless engagement of an American draft dodger and his rather shallow
Sep 12, 2010 added it
Shelves: fiction
Pace, character, and stakes--Murdoch's mistress of 'em all. So much changes so quickly, for reasons we understand why, and effects such different characters in such different ways because she's given us insight into their quirks and circumstances. My favorite device of hers is how she alternates chapter formats: one long, meditative chapter from the perspective of a secondary character contemplating a momentary crisis, followed by a short, narrative chapter following a primary character through ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it liked it
I have say I found this book a little hard to get into. I have read other books by Murdoch that were easier reading than this one. Set in sixties London it follows the lives of a group of frankly dysfunctional characters, an american draft dodger and his fiance, her parents, her aunt, and a group of friends and acquaintances who are trying to find their way through lives that have dealt them poorly. It is amusing and when you get in to it is quite compelling.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What a doozy. I liked this a lot more than The Sea, the Sea for reasons that are difficult to pin down. For one thing, it's just more enjoyable to read in lots of parts—though other parts are fairly ponderous. I'll also admit that I was taken by surprise towards the end when I realized I was supposed to be taking some elements of the plot seriously that I hadn't been. Still, a lot to chew on from this one. Definitely not for everyone, but a very interesting book.
Oct 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
the first of her novels which qualifies, I think, as a dud. It must be deliberate to make a book about contingency very incoherent- I get that. And there are funny things on offer here. But the whole thing never comes together, so it fails twice: fails to be a reliably good Iris Murdoch novel, and fails to make our random lives into art. After all, Beckett was already well ahead by the time this was written. So I don't quite know what she is up to here.
Mar 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
A book with no protagonist is harder to read than it sounds, and a book where there is no pattern, no real meaning to the lives of the characters is even tougher - but I'm glad we read this for our discussion because unlike so many easy-to-read books there was a lot to talk about and a lot to think about. I suspect, despite my 3-star rating, that this one is going to stick with me for a while.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
This book was something to read. The author did create some very complex characters, they were crazy, funny, sad,and oh my so depressing at times. You just wanted to jump into the book and shake them up. It was a very long book at four hundred and forty two pages.
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is now one of my favourite books of all time, and Iris Murdoch one of my fave writers. Well constructed characters, just quirky enough to be believable and fantastically written dialogue. Can't wait to read her other books.
Gary Branson
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not an easy read and still worth the effort. Murdoch is a very different reading experience, I can see her influence on A.S. Byatt. This was her second book that I have read... Will continue to read more.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
too good... :)
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-it, fiction
I enjoyed it, but the whole time I was reading it I was thinking about Eddie Izzard's skit on British films, Sebastian and arranging matches, etc...:
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even though I enjoyed this book as I do all of Murdoch's writings, I don't think I am able to add anything to the reviews that are already listed.
Isabelle Austin
...I could not finish this one: found that despite author's convoluted attempts, characters never reached their full "epaisseur".
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked it much, but then I am an official Iris Murdoch fan.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-books
I loved this book. Didn't like any of the characters. But I think that was the point! Could have done with a family tree as well :). Can't wait to read it again
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some in my book club thought the title character was evil & horrible, but I disagreed -- I thought he was compelling and misunderstood.
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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
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