The Book and the Brotherhood

The Book and the Brotherhood - Iris Murdoch [These notes were made in 1990:]. Another Murdochian phantasmagoria of character and philosophy. This one is about ... oh dear me, a dangerous way to start a sentence! The central characters in this novel (that's better) are linked by having been at one time a left-leaning group together at University. Several of them are pitching in to support one of their number while he writes a major book. Trouble is, not only have their philosophies diverged over the many years it has taken, but the author has proved himself to be personally loathsome to a number of them, particularly Duncan, whose wife Jean this author (Crimond) has seduced in the past and does so again in the course of the novel. Then there's Gerard, a man going through something of an internal crisis of his own, but still the strongest personality in the group, their generally acknowledged leader. His closest friend, in a tie which finds curious expression near the end of the novel is, as it were, the runt of the litter; the unattractive, rather solitary one, Jenkin. Gerard is the subject of an undemonstrative but powerful yearning from Rose, whose long-dead brother Sinclair, a golden boy, haunts in some way most of the older characters in this book. One gets the distinct impression that much of Gerard's genuine if rather dispassionate affection for Rose is based in a stronger feeling for Sinclair. There is a younger generation as well, the most developed of whom is Tamar, a sort of niece of Gerard's, who comforts Duncan after Jean's defection to Crimond, and subsequently has an abortion and a great deal of trauma. The climax of the plot is the near-fulfilment of a suicide pact between Jean and Crimond, and in the aftermath, someone does get killed - but it's Jenkin. It sounds like an awfully sensationalistic plot, but that's somehow cushiond by the equally awe-ful and intense self-awareness of all the characters. This is, after all, the kind of novel in which the characters can ask each other in the course of ordinary conversation how and why they believe in God. I loved this novel; I got all wrapped up in it. And when I can pull myself back far enough, I enjoy just watching how Murdoch uses the language.