|Iris Murdoch: The Black Prince|
Press (Paperback), ISBN 0140039341
The story starts out slowly. Pearson's self-absorption and righteousness do not inspire the reader's sympathy nor do the other characters, who privately abuse, cheat, or wish death upon their loved ones while maintaining respectable public appearances. Murdoch intersperses this introduction to the dual-natured main characters and their immediate crises with a great deal of philosophy about the nature of love, art and truth. These issues were Murdoch's passion as a philosopher, but the frequency with which she raises such difficult questions detracts from the story line.
Midway through the book, the pace picks up rapidly. Murdoch successfully involves the reader in the passion -- referred to as the black Eros -- that could awaken Pearson's creativity, causing lasting consequences and turning the relations between English intellectuals into a literary thriller. Murdoch twists and turns the story in a way that makes the reader care for and even sympathize with each character as they struggle with aspects of love and human emotion. The narrative journey encompasses lust, violence, psychosis and adultery, as well as youth, vitality, trust and new beginnings. Combining murder, love and the relationships among a small group of aging Englishmen and women, Murdoch infuses psychological and philosophical tension into a classic tale of love and murder.
Cutting down on the amount of philosophizing would have strengthened the story line. But despite Murdoch's refusal to allow editing of her work, The Black Prince made the shortlist for the Booker Prize. A timeless story that unravels timeless emotions, The Black Prince grips the reader with its surprising finale and the talons of Murdoch's writing.
An avid reader and traveler, Jessica Jacobson is currently a graduate student at Princeton University living in Siberia.
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