i have an iris murdoch headache. she made me cry like she always does, and i feel vaguely like i've just eaten a huge piece of blue cheesecake, heavy and hypnotic in its dense richness, dotted with sour bits, not too sweet. her people are very real and audacious. they are crazy and they are convincing. i think, 'yes, this is very true, people are like that, damn them.'
i would argue that there's not really a main character in this novel but rather it concerns a coterie of characters: david and his parents harriet and blaise gavender; blaise's mistress, emily mchugh, their son luca; and the gavender's neighbour, the well-known author monty small, his dead wife sophie, his mother, and his old school chum edgar demarnay. playing smaller roles are constance pinn, and kiki st loy. these will be the people we come to know in the sacred and profane love machine. they eat and drink (they drink a helluva lot), they walk or kick dogs, they talk, they think, they love, they try to understand, they fight, they fantasize. this novel exudes sex even if it is a practically sexless outing compared to some of her other novels. i became attuned to the character's desires, rooting for them to sort out these messes they've created, the messes they are.
i'm know i'm reading iris murdoch, yet she does this to me every time: she begins by lulling me with the comforts of the domestic scene, only to begin to unravel it. then she whacks me over the head with her philosophizing, here trying to get to the truth of love through its dualities, even as she has harriet rescue another dog.
that's not to say the novel is perfect: monty's constant preoccupation about maybe trying to be a school master again might have some weight that i'm unaware of, but i did want him to shut up about it, regardless. sometimes there are passages like this. and sometimes it's just hard spending time with these characters, they can be quite hateful, even if artfully executed, it's difficult being with them. hence, the headache. i've seen other reviews complain about the ending. it didn't spoil the book for me, and i won't spoil it, but i'll admit she tricked me completely. i didn't see it coming but it didn't feel like a cop out. it felt real to me, even if i didn't especially like how things turned out. and that's why i continue to return to murdoch: though her words might make me sick, in my head and in my heart, i'm going to come back for more because they all seem so true.