Sunday, February 26, 2012

Favorite Author: Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch (1919 - 1999) was an Irish-born author best known for her complex but entertaining philosophical novels.  Dame Iris, as she was known since she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1987, won the Booker, Black, and Whitbread (now Costa) prizes; had one book on the Modern Library's list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century; and also wrote poetry, plays, and books of philosophy.

I am working my way through her novels, which are listed below in publication order.  Those I have read are in red; those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Under the Net (1954) (Modern Library's Top 100 list)

The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)

The Sandcastle (1957)

The Bell (1958)

A Severed Head (1961)

An Unofficial Rose (1962)

The Unicorn (1963)

The Italian Girl (1964)

The Red and the Green (1965)

The Time of the Angels (1966)

The Nice and the Good (1968)

Bruno's Dream (1969)

A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)

An Accidental Man (1971)

The Black Prince (1973) (James Tait Black winner)

The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974) (Whitbread, now Costa, winner)

A Word Child (1975)

Henry and Cato (1976)

The Sea, the Sea (1978) (Booker winner; reviewed here)

Nuns and Soldiers (1980)

The Philosopher's Pupil (1983)

The Good Apprentice (1985)

The Book and the Brotherhood (1987) (reviewed here)

The Message to the Planet (1989)

The Green Knight (1993)

Jackson's Dilemma (1995)


Please feel free to leave comments with links to your Murdoch-related posts and I will list them here. 


The Sea, the Sea is my favorite so far.  It is a remarkable novel and really, really wonderful. I also loved The Bell.

A Fairly Hounorable Defeat was also very good, and sticks in my head all the more now that I read Claire Massoud's The Emperor's Children, which I think was a rip-off of Murdoch's earlier book.

Updated March 17, 2020.


  1. I love Iris Murdoch. You have a treat in store for you with The Bell, it's an amazing book.

    'Iris' by her husband John Bayley, is worth a read too.

  2. I have yet to read Murdoch--that's a somewhat daunting list of books, but I'll be interested in reading yor reviews.

  3. Sam: Thanks for the recommendation. I will read The Bell next. I have the biography too, but want to read a few more novels first.

    Jane: And her books can be a little daunting as well, but once you get into one of them, it can really grab you.

  4. How interesting. I've never heard of her. I have never thought of posting author bios unless I am doing an interview or as part of a review. I like it!

  5. She's my favorite writer. It's so hard to single out one book as my favorite, but if I had to, I'd choose The Bell. Enjoy your journey through the books!

  6. I think her early work is brillant, some of her later work I find a bit dry and hard going, like The Book and the Brotherhood. I love the novels that have strong literary allusions and magical/mystical elements to them, they're the most imaginative I think. The Green Knight and The Flight from the Enchanter are certainly among my absolute favourites.

  7. As you know, I love Ms. Murdoch. The year I spent in college reading her books from first to most recent in order was one of the best reading experiences of my entire life. I also love The Sea, The Sea, but am equally fond of A Severed Head. I haven't seen any of the movies or read any of the books about her because I like the essence of her that is contained in her work.

  8. Dana: I like to keep track of my progress working through the bibliographies of my favorite authors. So I do these kinds of posts and then link to them on my Favorite Authors page and over in the right hand column. Part of my list compulsion!

    Unknown: The Bell is quickly moving to the top of my TBR list.

    Chell: Interesting perspective. I've jumped around with her books, chronologically, but I haven't read enough of them to draw any big conclusions. I have the Green Knight, so it is one I will get to sooner than later.

    Caitlin: What an incredible year of reading! I would love to immerse myself in an author's work like that. But of course I never will because of all the other book temptations.


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