Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch

Story of James (Jake) Donaghue, who's a translator and sometime author. After being thrown out of his lodgings he goes in search of an old girlfriend, but comes across other people from his past.

This was her first book, and was well received but I'm not sure I "got it" this time round. Jake had had a friendship in the past with Hugo, who he met while they were both spending time at a cold cure clinic. During their time there, they'd had many philosophical conversations about language and meaning, and following this Jake started first to make notes and then to write a book based on the dialogues. But he never told Hugo what he was doing, and when he published it he was so fearful of Hugo's reaction that he broke contact with him. This meant that the figure of Hugo exterts a powerful, rather sinister, influence over Jake, and he spends much of the first half of the book worrying about whether he should try and re-establish contact, etc.. I think this is a common theme in Murdoch's novels: there's some character who's acquired a reputation for power over others, but you don't actually come to meet him for quite some time.

The other thing that reminded me of her other books was how preoccupied Jake was with his own problems, and himself generally. This reminded me a bit of "The Black Prince" and A Word Child - all of these are written in the first person by someone with a big ego.

The book was well written; the conversations with Hugo were interesting, and there were some good comic moments but overall I was left wondering whether the whole thing was meant to be a metaphor for something and it had gone over my head.

Completed : 15-Jul-2007 (audiobook)

[nickoh] [2007 books] [books homepage]