I love that I can get older Kindle and Audio books at the click of the keyboard. This was first published in 1969 and is certainly a classic but that’s no guarantee that it would be available in any of my local bookshops or library – I live in a rather poor rural area where there are no bookstores within 50 miles and the library is not connected to the county. I suppose I could order them from another library – I’ve done that, but …
by Iris Murdoch
1969 / 320 pages
read by Simon Prebble 20h 15m
rating – 8.75 (temp)
(read and listened)
The story opens with Bruno in bed at the home of Danby, his son-in-law, although his daughter is dead.
Bruno is remembering again, he remembers a lot. He remembers his relations – Miles and his loves, Gwen and Danby. There are difficulties and it’s mostly sad, but there are times when he remembers good things. It’s mostly about love – and the tale of his adulterous affair and how it affected his now deceased wife Janie.
Chapter 2 is about Danby and his point of view, a widower who loved his wife but is still attractive to women. Danby has now had an affair with Adelaide, the maid, for many years. Before her it was Linda who went back to Australia. Danby has taken over Bruno’s business, printing. He dreams of his wife who drowned.
Chapter 3 is about Nigel, the nurse, – He dreams of the occult, strange.
Chapter 4 – back to Danby and Bruno – Bruno is fascinated by spiders and stamps. Decides to write to Miles. Danby is not in favor of this. Bruno dreams of making amends to Miles and of being forgiven by his wife. Bruno has grave regrets.
Maureen might have died strangled in clothes – Bruno nearly strangles in clothes.
Chapter 5 – Adalaide and Will – he wants her to steal a stamp from Bruno for him. She refuses.
Chapter 6 – Miles – and his life with Pavoti, the loss, the dread of seeing Miles – of emotions.
Chapter 7 – Danby’s ideas about the meeting between Miles and Bruno – He’s drinking/drunk as usual – Danby and Bruno sipping champaign as usual. Bruno is not meek. Danby imagines funeral. Nigel flutters around.
Chapter 8 – Danby goes to see Miles – meets Diana – invites to dance.
Chapter 9 – Nigel’s night out peeking at people and windows. He’s barefoot. Sees Adelaide and Will arguing. Auntie watches. Nigel goes home and is invisible next to Danby. (?????)
Chapter 10 – Danby and Diana dancing in a “ballroom.” Diana feels sorry for Lisa who seems like some kind of mystic to Diana. He now wants to take her home. Diana refuses – loves her husband.
Chapter 11 – Bruno dreaming about having murdered someone and Miles is the judge who condemns him to death. Wakes and finds dressing gown – like Maureen or some woman:
“Life is a series of unpleasant things which pass off. Except that there is one last one which doesn’t.”
Bruno cries – he does this every once in awhile. Nigel comes and helps him.
Spiders – and there is a fly in a spider web. Some baby spiders eat their mothers after her death – perfect – is it God’s plan? – Nigel and Bruno can talk about God.
Nigel: “It doesn’t matter whether we are saved.”
Bruno: “I can’t help it, I want to be saved. Do you love Him, Nigel?
” Yes, I love Him.”
“Why? He makes me suffer.”
“Why should you lvoe Him for that?”
“I dig suffering.”
Chapter 12 – at Diana’s house – she refuses to have sex. Lisa walks in on them but leaves before anything happens. She knows – will she tell Miles? They agree to meet.
Chapter 13- Miles goes to Danby’s house to see Bruno. Very serious. They have very different ideas about why they are estranged. Bruno thinks it’s about Maureen and Janie, but to Miles it’s about Parvati. Bruno begs forgiveness – Miles agrees but it’s not what Bruno wants. Miles has written letters and Bruno has not responded – they were “lying.’ The meeting ends in disaster – Miles runs out and Danby is annoyed because Bruno is upset. Miles feels defiled.
Diana and Lisa go to see Bruno in the rain. They are appalled at his appearance. Lisa is very good with Bruno and Danby becomes infatuated.
Chapter 15 – Adelaide and Will in a fight – Diana enters and talks to Adelaide and Adelaide is jealous of Will – and has problems with Danby. Adelaide takes a stamp for Will. Diana has told Miles about Danby except not the dancing. Diana tells Lisa there’s nothing going on but realizes she’s not entirely happy with Miles. Danby is making passes at Lisa – Lisa looks like Gwen.
Chapter 16 – Danby at the cemetery then tries to get Lisa to have lunch some time. He’s badly hooked on her. Wednesday –
Chapter 17 – Miles wonders what Danby wants with Lisa. Lisa has said she would go to see Bruno. They go back home and Diana has it set nicely. A new sherry decanter –
Chapter 18 – Bruno discovers his stamp is missing – Nigel tells Danby that Adelaide took it. Danby confronts Adelaide, she explodes and he leaves. Adelaide has given the stamp to Will. Adelaide is crushed. She checks his room and finds his love letter to Lisa.
Chapter 19 – Miles sneaks into Lisa’s room – he’s caught. (Thursday, Friday) and Saturday morning – He and Lisa confess their love for each other. Diana finds out.
Chapter 20 – Bruno and Lisa – Bruno confesses to Lisa – Lisa tells him to be gentle with Miles.
Chapter 21 – Sunday –
Two men obsessed with the same woman. One woman obsessed with two men different brothers. An old man obsessed with the past and forgiveness from his son who is very angry with him for something else.
Greensleave – Greens Leave?
Bruno Greensleave – “brown skinned”
an aging man living in son-in-law’s house – collects stamps and enjoys learning about spiders
overwhelmed with guilt about affair with Maureen – doesn’t believe in God
Janie – his deceased wife
“Gift from God” – blamed Bruno for everything – cancer,
Danby Odell- “Village” Bruno’s son-in-law
wife died and he’s not got over it – adulterous – plays around but falls for Lisa because she looks like Gwen –
Gwen Greensleave – “white, holy”
Bruno’s daughter – also deceased
Miles Greensleave -(the soldier angel of God)
Bruno’s son, estranged
loved Parvati but she died – has Diana now – but Lisa falls in love with him, too
he falls for Lisa and her saintly ways
Parvati – goddess “of the mountains” Miles’ first wife died pregnant
Diana – goddess – “heavenly, divine”,
Miles’ second wife – seems to pick up on men who are not available
Maureen – Bruno’s very young adulterous lover
Adelaide – “of the nobility”
Danby’s maid and lover
gives herself to Danby and finds out she’s been used by both him and Will –
Nigel – Bruno’s nurse
from the Gaelic: “cloud”, “passionate”, or “champion”
Will – Nigel’s twin brother – cousins to Adelaide
Lisa – Diana’s sister – lives with her and Miles
“oath of God, or God is satisfaction”
Maurice de Crecy – Adelaide’s father
Joseph Boase- Will and Nigel’s father
Mary Boase de Crecy – Adelaide’s mother – sister of Joseph
Auntie – – lives with Boase boys