The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 4 May 2002

The Flight from the Enchanter

by Iris Murdoch

Perhaps a new biography of Iris Murdoch could clarify the circles in which she moved when she was young, and her obsessions. The recent movie Iris helped a little. Her books are so rich with characters and intellectual personalities, that one is curious about their inspiration. In this (her second?) novel, Murdoch brings to life a circle of friends and acquaintances each of whom has a somewhat obsessive connection to one man, Mischa Fox, an enigmatic, wealthy, and powerful mover and shaker in London. Murdoch was brilliant at interweaving the lives of her characters, and describing the world in which they lived somewhat disconnected from everyday existence. These people have heavy intellectual lives. Love is often obsessive and clumsy, and children are almost wholly absent. These people are tormented, sometimes by the smallest moral decisions. Some are paralyzed with inaction. Each has a moment of impulsive and destructive behavior in this book. Rosa, Mischa's erstwhile lover, is entangled with two brutal immigrant workers living in a flat down in Pimlico. She keeps as a boarder, a young woman, Annette, who is impulsively leaving school to take on the School of Life and finds it a brutal lesson. Rosa's brother keeps alive an old lefty feminist magazine, the Artemis, that nobody seems interested in, but for Clive Black, the mercenary agent of Mischa Fox. The list of characters goes on. Some turn to Fox for help, but almost everyone ends up repulsed by something dark in his character. Murdoch runs her characters through the ringer. Some are frustrating, others inspired, some bumbling, still others intelligent but alienated. This isn't Murdoch's finest work, but the elements of her future explorations into good and evil are here. The book is darkly comic, and an entertaining literary read.

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Also by Murdoch: [The Sandcastle] [An Accidental Man] [The Green Knight]

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