Deborah Cater's Reviews > The Bell

The Bell by Iris Murdoch
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's review
Aug 22, 2014

really liked it
Read 2 times. Last read August 20, 2014 to August 22, 2014.

Murdoch shows us how to combine philosophical questions with readable fiction. Love and religion, two subjects that when combined often leave both author and reader disappointed, are brilliantly dealt with in this 1950s, middle-class England story. There are no cringe-worthy moments, no point at which you find a philosophical argument uncomfortably shoe-horned into the story, this is a seamless piece of writing.

Some people think too much, others not enough and so it is with the characters in the novel. Those who think are slow to act, and when they do act impulsively it creates problems. Dora Greenfield, one of the main protagonists in the novel, rarely thinks until it is too late, and her actions help bring about the implosion of the small lay community at Imber.

Both hetero- and homo-sexual love are treated with care and tenderness, which considering the novel was written in the 1950s when homosexuality was illegal in Britain (though the Wolfenden report of 1957 had set the ball rolling along the decriminalisation path)makes the philosophical argument about love all the more poignant and meaningful.

The symbolism of the delicate butterfly which Dora rescues and sets free near the beginning of the novel encapsulates the argument for and about love. The bell rings in the changes - out with the old, in with the new - although for some the pattern is repeating albeit in different hues and places. This is a perfectly balanced piece of writing, neither contrived nor muddled though the philosophical questions remain.

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Reading Progress

August 20, 2014 – Started Reading
August 22, 2014 – Started Reading (Paperback Edition)
August 22, 2014 – Shelved
August 22, 2014 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
August 22, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 7, 2015 – Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)

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