Friday 3 February 2012
The Bell - Iris Murdoch
Have you ever come across a character that you at one minute like and pity and the next find irritating? I'm sure most people have but the difference with Dora is that I liked her when the story was told from her point of view. Then found her irritating when she was seen through the eyes of others. She really is afraid of her husband who's passions and jealousy scares her and yet she gives him every reason to be jealous. She teases him without realising she is doing it. Yet she has an innocence about her because she has no idea of what she is doing. It doesn't occur to her that she could hurt anyone and as a result instead of coming across as malicious or a bitch (as one character suggested) she does seem a little naive. I thought that was very well done on Murdoch's part and definitely made Dora seem like a whole character. She was one of my favourites despite her irritating qualities.
The story line which was really central wasn't the bell or Dora although they did have their part to play in the end. It was really Michael. The leader of the group who is trying to deny who he is. He is trying to escape his homosexuality through his religion. Life doesn't work like that though and his trying to hide his passions and loves have a disastrous effect. Not just on him but on those around him. I liked Michael too. He was so confused about what he really wanted. I felt so sorry for him but at the same time I couldn't help but think that letting his emotions get the better of him was wrong (the two people involved may have been of consenting age but were under his care as a teacher and then as a spiritual leader). Again Murdoch did very well in this story line.
The book actually doesn't have that much dialogue. It doesn't have some but it relies quite a lot on description and the thoughts of Toby, Michael and Dora more than anything else. It means that we got to see so much more of the community and so many different aspects of it. For example through Toby it was a wonderful adventure. It was a place that he loved and he greatly admired those within the community for being a part of it. Dora saw it as quite restricting and she felt she was being judged. Michael saw it as an escape, a new start and at times a bit of a chore.
Once again my classics loving friend has steered me right with a new author (new to me). This is supposed to be one of her best but I have nothing to compare it to. All I can say is that I very much enjoyed it and look forward to reading more. As Ellie rightly said this cover is by Vintage classics. Another reason why I love them.