The Unicorn Book Cover
When Marian Taylor takes a post as governess at Gaze Castle, a remote house on a desolate coast, she finds herself confronted with a number of weird mysteries and involved in a drama she only partly understands.
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The Unicorn Reviews

Sean
I usually enjoy the books of Iris Murdoch but this felt like a join the dots effort. We have seen the components too many times before, nothing fresh in the execution and, for "modern" book it was full of terribly dated, jarring concepts.
Eleanor Lake
This is an unnerving and frightening book and quite unusual for IM, IMO. The descriptions of the landscape are just incredible as in The Sea, The Sea.
Ian Potter
Did not enjoy as much as other books by Iris.
Too much of a stretch to make it seem real. I know it is described as a `fairy tale` but it was all too precious for me. Did not enjoy as much as other books by Iris.
Too much of a stretch to make it seem real. I know it is described as a `fairy tale` but it was all too precious for me.
The Red and the Green (Vintage Classics) :: Acastos :: Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (Vintage Classics) :: On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain Will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines :: Plum Boxed Set 2
Simon
"Freedom may be a value in politics, but not in morals. Truth, yes. But not freedom. That’s a flimsy idea like happiness. In morals we are all prisoners, but the name of our cure is not freedom."
Judith
A very interesting plot and quite unique (eccentric) characters. Twists and turns - hard to guess the outcome. I plan on reading more of this author.
Val
I enjoyed this book, but I was never quite sure where the author was going with it, and at times suspected that she did not either.
It starts with a young woman going to work at a lonely house as a governess, but finding that her role is to act as companion to Hannah, the lady of the house. There is clearly some sort of mystery surrounding this house and its inhabitants and their neighbours in the house across the valley. All this is fairly standard gothic mystery territory, but the mood changes. I enjoyed this book, but I was never quite sure where the author was going with it, and at times suspected that she did not either.
It starts with a young woman going to work at a lonely house as a governess, but finding that her role is to act as companion to Hannah, the lady of the house. There is clearly some sort of mystery surrounding this house and its inhabitants and their neighbours in the house across the valley. All this is fairly standard gothic mystery territory, but the mood changes. Everyone seems to be obsessed with Hannah and wants to rescue, save or protect her in some way, but it is far from clear whether Hannah is actually suffering or that she wants to be rescued.There is some discussion of the nature of spirituality, mainly focused on Hannah, but more to do with the other characters own preoccupations. The ending is pure melodrama and quite a few people end up dead.
Joy H.
This is a solid psychological drama and, perhaps for that very reason, only a lackluster gothic novel. The gothic trappings are present: nicely ominous scenery, mysterious and threatening characters, an old manor with a buried history. But all of this is set dressing. The substance of the story is people—pretty sane people, on the whole—talking to each other and thinking about things and sometimes falling in love. The atmosphere is somewhat at odds with the subject matter. The threatening charac This is a solid psychological drama and, perhaps for that very reason, only a lackluster gothic novel. The gothic trappings are present: nicely ominous scenery, mysterious and threatening characters, an old manor with a buried history. But all of this is set dressing. The substance of the story is people—pretty sane people, on the whole—talking to each other and thinking about things and sometimes falling in love. The atmosphere is somewhat at odds with the subject matter. The threatening characters never rise to the level of actual threats. The secrets of Gaze Castle, when revealed, are not particularly shocking; they lack the edge of perversity you’d expect. It’s all a little too subdued and realistic and not particularly fun. I think the problem is that gothic fiction is an inherently melodramatic genre, while Murdoch is most comfortable with psychological realism. When she strives for a melodramatic effect, as she does toward the end of the novel, where the body count takes a steep and sudden climb, the extreme developments feel a little incongruous with what comes before.

I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad novel. It’s very far from that. It contains many vivid descriptions of scenery and some excellent characterization. But I guess well-done psychological realism is not enough to float my boat, as a reader, unless the characters are ones I can really relate to. And I sorta liked Marian, and there were moments when I warmed to Effingham, but I wasn’t crazy about either. They are fairly regular people with fairly ordinary flaws thrust into a moderately bizarre situation. Gothic novels don’t require caricature, of course, but a few vivid and exaggerated details of characterization might have gone a long way toward making this a more memorable reading experience.

There are still a couple Iris Murdoch novels I’d like to try before I give up on her (I know this was an odd place to start). On the basis of The Unicorn she is a skilled author, worth reading for sure, but perhaps not for me.
Stephen Thom
I loved 'The Sea, The Sea', but found The Unicorn harder to warm to. I think to compare the two, the story in The Sea, The Sea is written in diary form and the vaguely pompous, rich prose reflects the protagonist and helps relate his personality, whereas in The Unicorn it feels somewhat off-putting at times. I like florid prose, but here it felt a little full on in places. I think this book must hold the record for the amount of times the word 'appalling' or 'appallingly' is used. Similarly the I loved 'The Sea, The Sea', but found The Unicorn harder to warm to. I think to compare the two, the story in The Sea, The Sea is written in diary form and the vaguely pompous, rich prose reflects the protagonist and helps relate his personality, whereas in The Unicorn it feels somewhat off-putting at times. I like florid prose, but here it felt a little full on in places. I think this book must hold the record for the amount of times the word 'appalling' or 'appallingly' is used. Similarly the otherworldly elements didn't quite combine in the same way. I have noticed this happening in Murakami novels as well; sometimes all these weird elements get thrown together, and they blend together to create something fascinating, and sometimes it doesn't quite work. There are certainly a lot of intriguing elements here and I have no problem with being asked to interpret my own meaning. There are some great set-pieces like Effingham's bog-sinking night walk. It is wonderfully atmospheric in places and the repetitive cycle and endless whisky drinking is gloriously creepy. I liked the seemingly disparate people all caught under the same roof. The shifting faces and romantic link-ups worked well. I wondered if Hannah was everyone in that house. But the philosophical/theological moments don't have the interweaved fluid quality of The Sea, The Sea, felt a bit shoehorned in in places, and the lens felt skewered, fluctuating as it does between Effingham, who was doing my head in by the end, and Marian. Perhaps after I read more reviews and interpretations I will start to appreciate it more. It certainly had some wonderful ideas and images, it just didn't quite seem to all fall together, but perhaps this would always be a possibility with such a novel, such an ambitious work. I at least appreciate again what she is trying to do, trying to link these philosophical ideas and debates into modern storytelling.
Jon
Some other Goodreads reviewers have written very wise reviews of this mishmash, so I guess I'll keep mine brief. Murdoch here tried very hard to blend Gothic, fairy-tale, philosophical, and realistic elements, and it shouldn't be too much of a surprise if she failed. Even A.S. Byatt (very much an Iris Murdoch fan) complained that the characters were occasionally "boring" but were almost necessarily so to the extent this was presented as a fairy tale. As one other Goodreads reviewer noticed, the Some other Goodreads reviewers have written very wise reviews of this mishmash, so I guess I'll keep mine brief. Murdoch here tried very hard to blend Gothic, fairy-tale, philosophical, and realistic elements, and it shouldn't be too much of a surprise if she failed. Even A.S. Byatt (very much an Iris Murdoch fan) complained that the characters were occasionally "boring" but were almost necessarily so to the extent this was presented as a fairy tale. As one other Goodreads reviewer noticed, the first 50 pages are successfully and unforgettably "spooky"-- a young woman arrives at a remote country house (named Gaze) apparently in Ireland. She has been hired as a governess, but instead of children she finds a woman living in seclusion to whom she is apparently expected to be a companion. Is this woman the lady of the house? She is certainly the wife of the owner, who has mysteriously disappeared. Is she entirely sane? Is she a prisoner? A belle dame sans merci? The metaphorical unicorn of the title? These questions are tossed around, looked at from every conceivable angle, and never fully resolved. It is a mark of the novel's power that when, at the conclusion, the survivors (yes, there are multiple deaths) leave Gaze and go back to the "real world," one feels that they are going someplace thin and meaningless, that they have lost something valuable that the real world will never be able to supply. Exactly what that might be is impossible to pin down.
Karla
What a bore. The language did not flow at all, and at times I wondered if the book was ever edited. I found several grammatical errors in this penguin classic, but no real substance to the writing. I understand the "conflict" that Iris is trying to portray, but nothing ever really happens. The juiciest part is when Effie gets sucked into the bog. I predicted that it would happen, but I was disappointed when he is found and saved. Effie's realization of his own mortality was interesting. Iris alm What a bore. The language did not flow at all, and at times I wondered if the book was ever edited. I found several grammatical errors in this penguin classic, but no real substance to the writing. I understand the "conflict" that Iris is trying to portray, but nothing ever really happens. The juiciest part is when Effie gets sucked into the bog. I predicted that it would happen, but I was disappointed when he is found and saved. Effie's realization of his own mortality was interesting. Iris almost had me interested when this happened. She showed Effie was rounding out, maturing. Instead he lives, unchanged by his near death experience! I feel this was a perfect opportunity (since she let him live after all), to then have him immediately experience a change in character. Instead he throws his love around even more, and is even more unsure of himself. I think she was trying to mimic Camus' absurdity as found in "The Stranger", but I think overall the plot lacked any real substance to achieve that. Horrible boring read!
Janet
I have yet to find an Iris Murdoch book that could ever be considered an easy read. You don't look to Iris for an easy read. "The Unicorn" is an especially complex puzzle of a book. Knowing that when I started I kept a notebook by my side; I kept track of names and places and relationships; I researched every obscure literary reference, and I reread countless passages countless times. Still, after finishing it yesterday and giving it much thought, I'm not at all sure that I understand it. But I I have yet to find an Iris Murdoch book that could ever be considered an easy read. You don't look to Iris for an easy read. "The Unicorn" is an especially complex puzzle of a book. Knowing that when I started I kept a notebook by my side; I kept track of names and places and relationships; I researched every obscure literary reference, and I reread countless passages countless times. Still, after finishing it yesterday and giving it much thought, I'm not at all sure that I understand it. But I do not care. I enjoyed every second of reading this book. It is part Gothic novel, part fairy tale, part mythical legend, part murder mystery, part noir detective story ... the character of Violet Evercreech is a worthy match for Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" and the ever present threat of the violent sea make it a character in its own right. Murdoch's writing is perfection. I could not put this book down; I would happily read it again, and I would do so knowing that I will never completely understand it.
Salvatore
The most outwardly philosophical of Murdoch's novels that I've read - think Dostoevsky at his most blatant. Due to that, my biggest criticism of this work is that at the end, it becomes almost too blatantly philosophical, approaching Hawthorne's 2x4 of explaining symbolism and the problems it creates. That, and the fact that people are plucked off like the end of a Shakespeare tragedy during the finale.

Other than that, Murdoch creates a Gothic horror mystery - with her noted light touches - as a The most outwardly philosophical of Murdoch's novels that I've read - think Dostoevsky at his most blatant. Due to that, my biggest criticism of this work is that at the end, it becomes almost too blatantly philosophical, approaching Hawthorne's 2x4 of explaining symbolism and the problems it creates. That, and the fact that people are plucked off like the end of a Shakespeare tragedy during the finale.

Other than that, Murdoch creates a Gothic horror mystery - with her noted light touches - as a young woman from London is invited to the middle of nowhere to a manor house, where she will teach French to the lady of the house. Slowly it emerges that this lady of the house may actually be imprisoned there - despite having no physical chains or locks keeping her bound - and that those in the house, willingly or not, are her gaolers. The novel seems to ask, are there unfair impositions of allegory and symbol - and most importantly suffering - on ourselves and others?

You'll have to read to find out...
truthnwisdom
I could not help myself... Read the Unicorn over the weekend, another Iris Murdoch's book. The book is almost comparable to the Sea the Sea.

What I took away is the mind is such an omnipotent force, it plays both heaven and hell. The protagonists envisioned the day when Hannah would summon enough courage to leave the self-imposed imprisonment and in turn release everyone of them. This wistful thinking was what propelled both Jamsie and Marian to attempt to 'kidnap' Hannah and forcefully show her I could not help myself... Read the Unicorn over the weekend, another Iris Murdoch's book. The book is almost comparable to the Sea the Sea.

What I took away is the mind is such an omnipotent force, it plays both heaven and hell. The protagonists envisioned the day when Hannah would summon enough courage to leave the self-imposed imprisonment and in turn release everyone of them. This wistful thinking was what propelled both Jamsie and Marian to attempt to 'kidnap' Hannah and forcefully show her the pathway to liberation. Their intent was far off from what Hannah had in mind. She was broken as a being and was a willing captive under house arrest. The Gaze, her home, was also her sanctuary.

If the do-gooders had expected the reborn of Hannah when the day finally arrived, it certainly didn't play out according to what they had thought. There was no liberation, only a breaking point. Each character placed themselves into another state of mind trap.

This is what I truly appreciate about Murdoch's books. The philosophy and the psyche of human nature stimulate me.
Coqueline
It is very rare that I have actually finished a book I rated as 1 star. I give Ms. Murdoch the credit for having written something excruciatingly bland but somehow compelling me to keep reading it to the end.

The structure of the novel creates the sense that there is something important/more exciting that's going to happen soon, but killed it right away on the next chapter (where it builds on another future 'suspense', which would fall flat again in time).

The characters spend too much time analys It is very rare that I have actually finished a book I rated as 1 star. I give Ms. Murdoch the credit for having written something excruciatingly bland but somehow compelling me to keep reading it to the end.

The structure of the novel creates the sense that there is something important/more exciting that's going to happen soon, but killed it right away on the next chapter (where it builds on another future 'suspense', which would fall flat again in time).

The characters spend too much time analysing their own heads, the philosophical musings are tiresome, and I keep imagining the whole book as if it happened one a stage of local theatre with minimal props.

And what is it with Denis and the chicks?
Amy
I love Iris Murdoch. This book was a great ride. I would love to see this as a movie and am surprised that it's never been adapted.

Here's my dream cast for the players:

Hannah - Kate Winslet (of course played Iris herself in the movie "Iris" some years back - perfect choice for Hannah)

Marian - Amy Adams

Effingham - Jonathan Rhys Meyers (from "The Tudors" fame)

Alice - Minnie Driver

Max - Jim Broadbent (also from the movie "Iris")

Pip - Jim Sturgess

Violet - Mary Lynn Rajskub ("Chloe" from 24 - who be I love Iris Murdoch. This book was a great ride. I would love to see this as a movie and am surprised that it's never been adapted.

Here's my dream cast for the players:

Hannah - Kate Winslet (of course played Iris herself in the movie "Iris" some years back - perfect choice for Hannah)

Marian - Amy Adams

Effingham - Jonathan Rhys Meyers (from "The Tudors" fame)

Alice - Minnie Driver

Max - Jim Broadbent (also from the movie "Iris")

Pip - Jim Sturgess

Violet - Mary Lynn Rajskub ("Chloe" from 24 - who better to play this odd character)

Jamesie - some young, handsome unknown for this role

Gerald - Liam Neeson

Denis - Toby Maguire
Nimbex
Dice en el prólogo que El Unicornio es la novela menos representativa del estilo de su autora así que probablemente no haya sido una buena idea escogerla como mi primera lectura de Iris Murdoch. La verdad es que su forma de escribir me ha gustado, describe las cosas tan bien que es facilísimo meterse en la historia. Y eso que la historia es bastante peculiar; me ha quedado la sensación de que no he llegado a entenderla del todo, o puede que no haya mucho que entender y no sea más que un homenaje Dice en el prólogo que El Unicornio es la novela menos representativa del estilo de su autora así que probablemente no haya sido una buena idea escogerla como mi primera lectura de Iris Murdoch. La verdad es que su forma de escribir me ha gustado, describe las cosas tan bien que es facilísimo meterse en la historia. Y eso que la historia es bastante peculiar; me ha quedado la sensación de que no he llegado a entenderla del todo, o puede que no haya mucho que entender y no sea más que un homenaje a la novela gótica. No lo sé. En cualquier caso la señora Murdoch ha conseguido llamarme la atención y sin duda leeré algo más de ella.
Debbie Walker
This is my first attempt at an Iris Murdoch novel and was recommended to me as a good place to start. I really don't know if I enjoyed it, understood it or what to make if it. Some of the characters were sinister, some fragile but all generally odd. I did find the writing style easy on the brain but the story was somewhat bizarre and I am not sure if it was written in jest. I would like to think this won't be my last Iris Murdoch novel as I did enjoy the writing style and so if anyone reading th This is my first attempt at an Iris Murdoch novel and was recommended to me as a good place to start. I really don't know if I enjoyed it, understood it or what to make if it. Some of the characters were sinister, some fragile but all generally odd. I did find the writing style easy on the brain but the story was somewhat bizarre and I am not sure if it was written in jest. I would like to think this won't be my last Iris Murdoch novel as I did enjoy the writing style and so if anyone reading this review would like to recommend something to me that I may get to grips with a little easier then all suggestions welcome.
Laura Leidner
For a book called the Unicorn, there was nary a unicorn and that was quite disappointing. Of course, the unicorn is the allegory for Hannah, a very mysterious spiritual character who also happens to be murderous/suicidal. I was not into the Plato tangents, but i did love the description of the bog, castle and a desolate Scottish-ish landscape. The best scene, which in some ways is worth reading the whole book for, was when Effingham has a terrifying experience getting lost and stuck in the bog.

H For a book called the Unicorn, there was nary a unicorn and that was quite disappointing. Of course, the unicorn is the allegory for Hannah, a very mysterious spiritual character who also happens to be murderous/suicidal. I was not into the Plato tangents, but i did love the description of the bog, castle and a desolate Scottish-ish landscape. The best scene, which in some ways is worth reading the whole book for, was when Effingham has a terrifying experience getting lost and stuck in the bog.

Honestly I would rather re-read Angela Carter than read another Murdoch, but maybe I'll give her another go.
jojo
Started really well and lapsed into awful tedious melodrama towards the end.

This book is a strange beast, because in parts it has sections that seem part of a perfectly realized whole which just got removed. It has a basic skeleton of an interesting philosophical idea; the nature of freedom and public image vs reality, plus exploring the contradictory nature of rescue.

But tacked over this like some horrid badly-cured skin is a silly lurid melodrama, with beautiful convincing physical descriptio Started really well and lapsed into awful tedious melodrama towards the end.

This book is a strange beast, because in parts it has sections that seem part of a perfectly realized whole which just got removed. It has a basic skeleton of an interesting philosophical idea; the nature of freedom and public image vs reality, plus exploring the contradictory nature of rescue.

But tacked over this like some horrid badly-cured skin is a silly lurid melodrama, with beautiful convincing physical descriptions crammed in anywhere that seems particularly important. It seems almost Murdoch got bored actually writing the novel and tried to churn something out after piling up the basic structure.
Benjamin Kass
This book entranced me on my first reading. It was my first introduction to the Gothic, and I'm afraid it was a larger influence on my writing that it should be.
This isn't her best book, by far. Critics aren't even sure whether it is gothic or a parody of gothic. But the brilliant spots truly shine, and it managed to seep into the whorls and cracks of your mind. Like "A Severed Head", there is a power in her writing here. If you are looking for a modern gothic treat I would recommend it
Lisa Hajek
I really liked this book. It is a very deep, strange story with many mysteries and much darkness. Iris Murdoch is an incredible story teller. I was right there in the grim landscape, I was under the strange spell that the characters were under at some points in the tale. It was genuinely sinister at times but I had to know what would happen next and kept turning those pages. With a less skilled author this story might have been too odd and a little silly, but Murdoch pulls it off in my opinion. I really liked this book. It is a very deep, strange story with many mysteries and much darkness. Iris Murdoch is an incredible story teller. I was right there in the grim landscape, I was under the strange spell that the characters were under at some points in the tale. It was genuinely sinister at times but I had to know what would happen next and kept turning those pages. With a less skilled author this story might have been too odd and a little silly, but Murdoch pulls it off in my opinion. The relationships between many different characters were fascinating.
Katy
I'd been meaning to read something by Iris Murdoch for ages and picked up a copy off a friend's bookshelf with wonderful rounded edges. I don't understand how these appealing and practical edges aren't used more regularly in book production. They can't be very expensive and with so much overpublishing and so competition you'd think publishers would want to try to distinguish themselves or some new line of repackaged titles.

Spoiler alert: the unicorn is a metaphor. Also, the book is excellent.
Emma
Probably my least favourite of Iris Murdoch's books. I liked the twist of fairy tale with gothic tale but I find it hard to connect with a book in which I don't warm to any of the characters. I wanted to review this particular edition to warn people not to read the introduction before you've read the book. I've learnt the hard way and never read intros now until I've finished the book, but this one in particular gives the whole plot away. Why do that? It's like someone telling you the ending of Probably my least favourite of Iris Murdoch's books. I liked the twist of fairy tale with gothic tale but I find it hard to connect with a book in which I don't warm to any of the characters. I wanted to review this particular edition to warn people not to read the introduction before you've read the book. I've learnt the hard way and never read intros now until I've finished the book, but this one in particular gives the whole plot away. Why do that? It's like someone telling you the ending of a film before you've seen it. V annoying!
Jorge Cienfuegos
3,5.

Me ha costado puntuarlo, porque es un libro bastante peculiar y durante buena parte de la lectura no he sabido si me gustaba o no. Al principio despista y hasta diría que aburre un poco, pero luego me he encontrado atrapado yo mismo por el ambiente psicotrópico del castillo y me acabado encariñando con sus personajes a pesar de tener la ceja permanentemente enarcada ante las cosas que hacían y decían.

Más que novela gótica, a mí me ha recordado al realismo mágico. Sin nada mágico ni sobrenatu 3,5.

Me ha costado puntuarlo, porque es un libro bastante peculiar y durante buena parte de la lectura no he sabido si me gustaba o no. Al principio despista y hasta diría que aburre un poco, pero luego me he encontrado atrapado yo mismo por el ambiente psicotrópico del castillo y me acabado encariñando con sus personajes a pesar de tener la ceja permanentemente enarcada ante las cosas que hacían y decían.

Más que novela gótica, a mí me ha recordado al realismo mágico. Sin nada mágico ni sobrenatural, pero al mismo tiempo sí (?). Es extraño. Una lectura curiosa, definitivamente.
Jane
This seems like a mystery novel, where the mystery is not a who-done-it so much as a who-is-it. The character who commands thralldom is actually quite vulnerable, a 'captive princess.' Like a princess, she would seem to have power, but she is apparently obstructed by 'protectors,' and her resources for understanding and handling her situation turn out to be very limited. So is her mystery actually a simple lack of definition?
Ignacio Senao f
UN LIBRO ELEGANTE:

No hay mucho que decir de esta novela, sólo puede descubrirse leyéndola.

Al igual que me pasa con Murakami, no hay ningun momento de aburrimiento, aunque no te guste lo que te esta narrando, es el placer de leer por leer. Todo muy bien escrito y traducido. Los personajes carismáticos. El ambiente gótico. Y el amor une todo.

Sí algo reprocho, es ese final tan poco creible o extremadamente "fácil"
Maureen
This is an unusual novel, very Gothic setting in a remote part of Ireland,
sheer cliffs, the sea pounding, two castles facing each other across a valley.
A young woman comes as a governess, but not for children it turns out. Mysterious and at times exciting (Effingham's time lost in the bog had me too nervous to breathe). I can't say I understand the author's intention, but I liked the journey.
Anna Bosman
She's grand. Shakespearean. Perfect. I haven't seen a better or gruesomer picture of inescapable egoism that leads to the ultimate desolation of all. Murdoch is awesome at capturing the images of loneliness. She's worse at capturing the images of love. And since I care for the latter more than for the former, I might need to take a break before I allow myself to pick up another novel of hers - surely, I won't be able to put it down.
Sarah
I liked the philosophical questions that arised in this book. But it's really not an easy read if you want to fully understand the characters.
I agree with some of the other reviews: at first I felt pity for some of the characters, but later they just annoyed me (although I could to some extent understand why they were 'enchanted' by Hannah). The first half or 3/4 of this book were really good,but then I just wanted it to be over although Iris Murdoch writes beautifully.
Charity
To be honest, I truly disliked the ending (no closure really). Like others have said, I kept waiting for something to happen, something to change, and it never did. I can handle tragic romances & such, so it wasn't that. But something about the novel left me disappointed. Still, I give it 3 stars because the book stays with you for a while, your mind trying wrap around the emptiness of it all.
Christine
I loved the beginning - very moody and gothic, with a governess going out to begin a new life, but it ended up being nothing like what I expected. While some of the characters were amusing, the story didn't hold my interest. The entire book may have been meant as a satire of the gothic genre, but it took itself a little too seriously to be easily read as a satire. That said, I may pick this one up again later and give it another shot.
Charlene
There are so many gaps and and pointless thoughts in here to make you want to throw it out the window. It should have been more of everything it wasn't. It reminds me of those bubble brainstorms that I was taught to do in 3rd grade. The only reason I read completely through it was a hope of mine that the story would all come together, but I was left dissappointed.
George
Haunting imagery, characters who are out of touch with reality in a serious way, bizarre plot twists... all typical Murdoch, and I loved it! The ending, however, did not pack the punch I was waiting for. The tension build-up was immense, but then the story just seemed to float away, like a leaf on Denis' fish pond.
Kevin Darbyshire
A second reading of this very strange story. Iris Murdoch creates a claustrophobic atmosphere so you actually feel that you are in “Gaze” with the residents. I found the ending rather unsatisfactory and wanted to know what happened to the characters. An emotional and dramatic read. I have enjoyed other books of Murdoch more than this but her consummate skill as a writer shines through.
Sera
Freedom and death are depicted around complicated relationships among several characters. All characters except Marion and Effingham are unreliable and even repulsive. What makes you stick to the book till the end is the great thrilling style and narrating of Iris Murdoch.
Alyson
Very much a 'period' piece, depicting a particular time and ways, but still good. Although I was frustrated by the 'captive' Hannah and her visible apathy, I enjoyed the novel. The back said it could be read on several levels, which is good as I missed the deeper stuff!
Ginette
a story of the insight of the characters but none of them really pleased me. scholarly speaking it is probably a good novel but as far as I m concerned, I was just eager to have it over. and was disappointed by the ending, even if a little surprising.
Ita Ryan
I enjoy Iris Murdoch's novels, but can never suspend disbelief. It seems so unlikely that humans could behave as her characters do. For me at least, this robs the many philosophical and moral conundrums to be found in her books of much of their power.
Simon Clare
This book is worth concentrating on and giving time to. If you submerge yourself in it, you will get swept up in the peculiar world it describes. I might have grown bored if I had read it over too long a period, but dedicating some time to it really allows the atmosphere to enhance the story.
Katie
I'd seen this book on our shelf for a couple of years now (Tim must have picked it up at a library book sale), and finally picked it up a week ago. I was surprised at how quickly I engaged with the story, and its surprisingly dark twists on the Gothic novel. A good read, as it were.
Amri
My first Murdoch book. A goody. Very gothic. All the neighbors are obsessed with this woman that's locked in this house, that's like a castle in some god-forsaken part of the UK (is there a part of the UK like this?). I won't say the end but it's not pretty.

Dina Ashraaaaaaf
The fragmented narrative of this novel makes it so hard for me to get what the author wants to point out and express. I cannot piece together the different components of this novel and make sense of it! I don't like Murdoch's style of writing.
la tida
This is one of those stories that starts slow but as it gained momentum, I got more into it. I guess this is my second goth novel so far (after Jane Eyre). I def enjoy reading suspenseful mysteries with tormented characters.
Suzanne Snider
Please read the small pocketbook paperback edition with rounded corners. Lots of turned screws and gothic castle-y places. This was my first Iris Murdoch book. I would lose my Murdoch-virginity to this book again, if I had to do it all over again. Why doesn't anyone ever talk about this book? Why?
Maie
I loved all the mystery and the suspense in the novel, and hated the ending -_- I would not even mind a supernatural ending, but to end in this way!!! I am frustrated.
Ms
I loved this book, but i feel that everything lead to a different ending than the one written. Still a good ending, who am i to criticise a master.
Cassie
5 stars for weirdness - but took a while to get into - the end is great!
Elise Ashby
Very captivating, the atmosphere of the setting and the mental space of the characters is infectious. Embraces the occasional silliness of academic interpretation over common sense.
Christyhutchcraft
The end falls apart a bit, but Iris is a hero of mine and the novel is a successful bit of gothic storytelling.
Katya
Not my favorite novel by Murdoch. Too farfetched and a bit old-fashioned.
Tolliver
The first Murdoch I ever read -- and I remember thinking how lucky I was to have the rest of her work in front of me...
Wendy
A dark and bizarre tale set in a lonely seaside Scottish castle, touching on themes of suffering and forgiveness. Not a hopeful book by any stretch, but pretty par for the course with Ms. Murdoch.
Sarah
My first Iris Murdoch book. All I can say is I hope her other books are better. I'll try a Severed Head and hope for the best.
Carole
A very well written, intriguing yet disappointing book. The first half was so well written that I continued to find something that never happened. I will read Murdoch again.
Allison (The Allure of Books)
Started really strong - but steadily grew into a bigger convoluted, melodramatic mess.
Hugh
This book is one of Iris Murdoch's most memorable and atmospheric novels, set in a remote castle on the West coast of Ireland.
Centa Schumacher
Got this at dogeared books the other day, I won't say that is was ONLY because of the title but...ok that was mostly it. But it does sound interesting!
Isabell Ona bike
meh. hot and cold.inconsistent and unsatisfying.
Am
Fantasy; British countryside metaphysical journey of redemption and tragedy; the necessity of love and faith.
Rogier
it was very fantasy like and in a way not . it was not boring but I did not have the urge to read it in one sitting. I'm still exited to read a couple of her other books
Rebecca Jane
The writing was good, but it needed more character and plot development and the deeper/more spiritual meaning was a bit lost on me.
Katie Herring
I enjoyed it, but not as much as most of Murdoch's other books that I've read. the tension was great, but it moved slowly and thoughtfully, which i wasn't in the mood for.
Esther
Wonderful - so atmospheric and the usual Iris plot - a group of people in a strange location, this time rural Scotland and their interactions.
Jessica T.
I don't understand how some books are classics.... This was awful... and I'm judging you penguin claasics... I'm judging you.
Angie Perkins
Deliciously dark, but for me the ending didn't answer the questions that I wanted it to. Couldn't put it down trying to get to the end to find out the answers though!
Sheila
Very unusual book with a strange atmosphere, but most of Iris's books are. That's why I like them.
Ray Kingsbury
I read this as a graduate student in contemporary British Literature and found the characterization and use of psychological as well as philosophical insight engaging.
Feblub
I chose this book to research on female Gothic and found it interesting in modernising the concept in its on way. Those who love horror fiction, do have try on this.
Adam Morris
The chapter where Effie gets lost on the moors. Breathtaking.
Kelly Spoer
I think (I'm not sure) that this was the first Iris Murdock I ever read. At any rate I was caught, trapped, and cast in to the Mudockian thrall. Hence, I read them all (almost.).
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