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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

Vintage Classics Murdoch: Funny, subversive, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch was one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary, Vintage Classics presents special editions of her greatest and most timeless novels.

A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an enclosed order of nuns. A new bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to her husband. Michael Mead, leader of the community, is confronted by Nick Fawley, with whom he had disastrous homosexual relations, while the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved whatever that may mean... Iris Murdoch's funny and sad novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty.

©1958 Iris Murdoch (P)2011 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Bell

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolute pleasure

What an odd and delightful mind Iris Murdoch had. Her intelligent writing, beautifully descriptive prose and colourful imagination make her stories unique, and read by Miriam Margoyles this was pure joy. I agree with the previous reviewer, if Miriam had narrated all of Murdoch's books, I would download them all. I pitied poor Dora in the possession of such an appalling husband......but presented at a time when women had fewer choices she tries her best to rebel.

9 people found this helpful

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This is a pleasure!

Margolyse should read every Murdoch novel - her voice catches the comedy and the cleverness: note perfect.

8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

My first Iris Murdoch, am now a huge fan

What did you like best about this story?

The amazing descriptive language. It's all it's quite beautiful.

What does Miriam Margoyles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Miriam Margolyes makes this story for me. The range of different voices and characterations she brings to the narration is amazing. I just love her.

Any additional comments?

This book reflects the attitudes of the time, however, the opening chapters which describe married life for a young woman, are so well written and structured it struck such a chord.

3 people found this helpful

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Wonderful story

I love Iris Murdoch's books and I really enjoyed this. The characters are very well fleshed out and all are treated with insight and even-handedness by Murdoch. They are often capable of surprising the reader in ways still entirely consistent with their character. The tension increases in the last third of the book. It was published in 1958 so it's set in the not-so-distant English past. Miriam Margolyes reads it well and suits the book.

1 person found this helpful

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Annoying

Sadly it kept stopping but great book
Very compelling in places
Definately thought provoking x

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Murdoch’s finest novel beautifully read

I think this is Iris Murdoch’s finest novel. The characterisations are masterful and the story gripping.

A motley group set out to build a spiritual community, a task for which they have neither the wisdom nor the self-knowledge. With no experience to guide them disaster is inevitable, and comes about partly through inappropriate pursuits of love and partly through deliberate malice.

All manner of human frailty is on display, but painted with such lucidity that we know that we ourselves, thrown into that situation, would do no better.

In the background, witnessing the tragicomedy, is a community of nuns. We sense that a timeless tradition of contemplative devotion has taught them the hard lessons needed to live a good life in a chaotic and undisciplined world.

Murdoch’s theme is Platonic: goodness, truth and beauty are the highest goals of life; but perhaps too high for most of us to achieve in this lifetime.

Margoyles reads beautifully. Her pace is steady but never monotonous. She understands the characters and portrays them well.

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Excellent in every way.

I read a number of Iris Murdoch’s books in my teens but this one was my favourite. I fell in love with the characters portrayed in the TV series, especially Ian Holm and the lovely Michael Maloney. The story is beguiling and truly unique.
Thank you Miriam Margolyes for your magnificent narration.

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Haunting story

Miriam Margolyes is a superb narrator of this story and captures the range of characters perfectly, doing absolute justice to the complexities of the relationships. I read "The Sea, the Sea" prior to "The Bell" and preferred the former's overall themes. But "The Bell" does ponder the questions of personal happiness vs the duties towards others and the community. It asks questions about our moral responsibilities towards each other and explores the nature of homosexual love within the context of the era. I am glad, however, that I did not select it as my first Murdoch read, which was "Under the Net" and which I found more captivating.

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A Great British Writer and a Brilliant Narrator

I had heard that Murdoch was a good writer and when I saw that Miriam Margolyes was narrating this book I was hooked.
I enjoyed the story - I was struck by how nuanced Murdoch's characters are. She shows real compassion for them as they are bound by the social strictures of their time.
The plot is intruiging and Margolyes narration is sublime as ever.

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Fabulous rendition of an thought provoking book

This was my introduction to Iris Murdoch and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole. Miriam Margolyes’ excellent narration brought to life a, by turns, comic and tragic cast of characters. Dickensian humour and pathos, and Trollope’s ability to capture the atmosphere, or tension of a given moment. She didn’t give in to the temptation to capitalise on somewhat gothic setting. Although I half wanted her to! The drama comes from psychology versus ideas and the mystery of the individual.

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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 04-09-20

An uneven book gets a great reading

A small lay religious community living beside a closed order of Benedictine nuns forms the context for the uneven story told in this novel from the 1950s. And, yes, it is showing its age. Dated references and attitudes seem uninportant in great books, but this is not a great book. At times it is a good one, but those times only serve to indicate that Iris Murdoch's best work lay in the future.

The real triumph to be found is Miriam Margolyes' superb reading. She brings every character to life with her mercurial talent. The end result is closer to a fine radio play than a conventional book reading.

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  • Broxgirl
  • 29-08-20

A classic masterpiece

What I noticed while listening to The Bell was the way in which things and events are described. Iris Murdoch uses a rich turn of phrase which embodies the work as if being painted in bright colours upon a canvas. It’s even seeping into the ether as I write this review.

A slow and meandering and fully immersive story of a bell and a group of people in a order who bring with them all the trials and emotions of their past lives.

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  • Padmaja
  • 29-09-19

A delightful story brilliantly told!

Enjoyed every bit of this enchanting story, delightfully told. there are flashes of humour interspersed with poignant moments; Murdoch's insights into what makes us human are precious.