Iris Murdoch’s 1987 novel, The Book and the Brotherhood, is subtitled “A Story about Love and Friendship and Marxism,” which pretty much sums up the themes of her 23rd novel but only hints at the scope and complexity of the story.
The book begins when a group of longtime friends meet at an Oxford ball only to have their sentimental reunion jarred by the reappearance of their charismatic former leader, David Crimond. Years earlier, as young, liberal university students, the group had agreed to fund Crimond's writing of a book on their political philosophy. The book never materialized and the brotherhood never came to much. Now Crimond is back and bent on rekindling his affair with one of the women.
The story swirls around this original group of friends, pulling in siblings and other relatives, lovers, and hangers on. Lots of things happen with these people, from ice skating parties to suicide pacts, in between which they ponder and discuss the moral vacuum of Marxism, the possibility of religion without a personal God, the Platonic ideal, abortion, real estate, marriage, and parrots.
Murdoch is at the top of her game with this novel. She is droll in the telling, but forgiving with her characters, never sarcastic, and comfortable with moral ambiguity as she tells their stories without drawing conclusions or passing judgment. There is no pat ending and the various storylines demand further contemplation long after the cover closes.
The Book and the Brotherhood on Hannah Stoneham's Book Blog
The Book and the Brotherhood on Musings
The Sea, the Sea on Rose City Reader
If you would like your review of this or any other iris Murdoch book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.
The Book and the Brotherhood was 602 pages long, so counts as one of my 551 - 750 page books for the Chunkster Challenge. It also counts for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf challenges.