Martin Lynch-Gibbon believes he can possess both a beautiful wife and a delightful lover. But when his wife, Antonia, suddenly leaves him for her psychoanalyst, Martin is plunged into an intensive emotional re-education. He attempts to behave beautifully and sensibly. Then he meets a woman whose demonic splendour at first repels him and later arouses a consuming and monstrous passion. As his Medusa informs him, 'this is nothing to do with happiness'.
©2011 Iris Murdoch (P)2011 Random House Audio Go
When I was in my teens, and being raised with unrealistic expectations in a girls' boarding school, I thought this was the kind of thing adults did all the time: leap in and out of strange and dramatic relationships with strange and dramatic people, with strange and dramatic consequences. Picture my relative disappointment 20 years or so into my (so far) first marriage. I'm glad I didn't know in advance this was supposed to be a funny book: it made the humour all the more enjoyable. I kept wondering how much of it was supposed to be funny, and how much was so subtle that only I was getting it. I also kept filing stuff away to do myself, like sending boxes of hair to people and having Audubon prints to dispute when I next get married and divorced.
This is a lovely book. It gets across the basic point that so many people frantically desire to be in relationships, and will put up with an amazing amount of oddness and questionable behaviour in order not to be alone. Despite the "swingingness" of the parties involved, this is the very conventional truth at the heart of the story: pairs keep emerging, like couples from the confusion of a "Strip The Willow". Derek Jacobi is the ideal reader, too; his well-modulated, polite and resigned voice the perfect instrument here. It was a real wrench every time I had to get out of the car and stop listening. More than once I sat in the dark outside my flat with the engine running waiting for the outcome of a particular episode before I could bear to stop.
Like all self-centred people, Martin Lynch-Gibbon inhabits a world unaffected by the feelings or thoughts of others until one day he is exposed and forced to accept that the people he believed he knew so well have secret layers too. Some of the characters in this story, wonderfully brought to life by Derek Jacobi, are hilarious, especially when he adopts the whining and manipulative persona of Martin's wife, Antonia. It transpires that she is the person who wants it all but would also like everyone else to be civil while she goes about getting it. I found myself switching sides. While very witty, the insightful Iris Murdoch also captures the emotional tenderness of love, longing and the pain wrought by betrayal.
The combination of Iris Murdoch's writing with Derek Jacobi's brilliant reading.
The unpredictability and the humour.
Derek Jacobi had the perfect voice for these characters! He really captured their personalities.
I've read this book but this audible book was one of those rare events where you get even more from hearing it, mainly because of Derek Jacobi's brilliant performance.
I have been re-reading all the Iris Murdoch novels with great pleasure. Makes a difference reading them more than 20 years since my last read. This narration by Derek Jacobi is a wonderful way to rediscover Iris Murdoch.
Anyone interested in the atmosphere of free love in the 70's should read this book.
"Absurd and Very Funny"
Martin is quite pleased with his situation: a beautiful wife, Antonia, whom he adores, and a much younger mistress, Georgie, to keep things that much more interesting and make him feel like a "real" man. But when his wife announces that she's leaving him for her psychoanalyst who also happens to be Martin's friend, Palmer Anderson, Martin's perfect world suddenly collapses; only things are about to get messier and messier. Because both Antonia and Palmer fully intend to keep Martin in their lives, whether he likes it or not, and it soon becomes quite clear that Martin is probably the least deviant individual in what turns out to be a very amusing comedy of the absurd. This first experience with this author definitely made me want to read more of Murdoch's work, something I look forward to with relish. The cherry on the sundae was the narration by the brilliant Derek Jacobi.
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