The Unicorn

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The Unicorn

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feb. 11, 2014, 4:03pm

In the first two chapters - already a strange house full of even stranger people and a disastrous trip to a sinister beach to try to swim! I love this one so far.

feb. 17, 2014, 8:37am

I'm half way through. There is something a little different about The Unicorn - although I see it is an earlier novel, which might have something to do with it. It does echo The Bell somewhat. I'm not sure what the difference is, and I'm wondering if it doesn't have more to do with my own perceptions as someone who has read about 11-12 of IM's novels.

feb. 20, 2014, 10:56am

Here is my review:

Another reviewer here wonders if Murdoch is having us on - well - somewhat. But I'll wager it's more that she was playing around with the gothic form, seeing how she could push it, prod it, shape it. The gothic form is 'sensational' - that is devoted to sensually evocative imagery - nightmare, horror, secrets, death..... As often is the case Murdoch has a picture in mind, in this case, the tapestries of "The Lady with the Unicorn" - most particularly the last one, I think: "A mon seul desir' which I won't even attempt to translate (because it is ambiguous in the extreme). A young woman answers an add for a tutor, and finds her 'pupil' is a woman about her own age who has not left her home since a terrible incident with her husband (who has gone to America). The young woman, Marian, is alternately intrigued and frightened by the atmo of the house and the situation and becomes determined to free Hannah from her 'imprisonment' - but the story twists and turns and nothing is at it seems, of course. It's not a successful effort ultimately with clunky dialogue and uneven characters (some well-developed, some caricatures) - there's a feeling too of disorder, of some threads being dropped, of some twists and turns happening too quickly.....but all the same it is packed with Murdoch's musing about death and love, and the customary humor: "Geoffrey had always quite rightly told Marian that she did not know how to dress. She favoured a formless exoticism, he favoured a muddy simplicity: in fact neither of them had any taste at all." Delicious prose, acute perception, wit; it is an Iris Murdoch novel and therefore, even flawed, completely worth reading. ***1/2

I should say that my 'rating' reflects its placement (for me) in Murdoch's work as a whole.

There are some very clever allusions to the tapestry above-mentioned - Hannah giving Marian some necklaces (and I keep wondering if Marian takes all those gifts with her when she leaves?).

I also didn't mention above how much I love Denis and his fish.