Monday, March 05, 2007

The Bell

Iris Murdoch’s The Bell is an unusual book with an assortment of odd characters. At the center is Dora Greenfield, a young woman married to a much older and rather mean man. I liked Dora immediately.

The opening chapter of this novel can only be described as a brilliant display of writing. The way Murdoch can get inside the character of Dora and her thought processes left me hanging on every word. After the thrilling opening chapter, I lost my enthusiasm for many pages, but the novel captured my interest again near the end.

Much of The Bell takes place at a commune for lay church members. The commune is tied to a convent that also sits on the property. In this setting, Murdoch investigates several complex issues, including the lay community leader’s homosexuality and his struggle with his sexual desires. It is here that the awakening of Dora into an independent woman also takes place.

The novel can stimulate much conversation, which is what happened during my book club’s discussion. In fact, after the discussion I found myself rather in awe of Murdoch and the complexities of this novel.


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