Start reading A Word Child on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.
Read for Free
with Kindle Unlimited

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Add Audible Narration
Word Child Narrated by Simon Prebble $29.95 $3.99
Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

A Word Child [Kindle Edition]

Iris Murdoch
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $14.99 What's this?
Print List Price: $26.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $17.00 (63%)
Kindle Unlimited Read this title for free and get unlimited access to over 700,000 titles. Learn More

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Audible Narration

Switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible narration with Whispersync for Voice. Add narration for a reduced price of $3.99 when you buy the Kindle book.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $9.99  
Hardcover $33.95  
Paperback $22.36  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $0.00 Free with Audible trial
Mass Market Paperback --  
Unknown Binding --  
Second Life: A Novel by S. J. Watson
Second Life by S. J. Watson
A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead. Learn more | See similar books

Book Description

A brilliant but deeply flawed man struggles to earn absolution

Hilary Burde was a rising star in academia until a tragic accident plunged him and his mentor and rival, Gunnar Jopling, into two decades of depression and guilt. Hilary, unable to overcome his pain, abandoned his promising career for an unfulfilling job as a civil servant. But at age forty-one, Hilary crosses paths again with Gunnar—initiating a series of events that will change their lives forever.
Set against a richly drawn backdrop of post-war London, A Word Child is a gripping story of passion and the redemptive power of love.

Editorial Reviews


“Vivid . . . discriminating prose.” —The New York Times
“Marvelous . . . riveting . . . fine and elegant.” —The Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

Introduction by Ray Monk

Saved by education from a delinquent childhood, cheated of Oxford by a tragic love tangle, Hilary Burde cherishes his obsessive guilt and disappointment in a dull civil service job. When the man whom he has betrayed reappears as head of his department, Hilary hopes for forgiveness and a new life, but finds himself haunted by a ghostly repetition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2542 KB
  • Print Length: 456 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1453201157
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (July 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003V4ASM2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,284 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Murdoch Fan January 2, 2001
The plot concerns a deeply unappealing and uncivil servant called Hilary whose current angst has arisen from, as the blurb puts it, "a tragic love tangle". I found the first third the book a little difficult to get through but what kept me turning pages was Murdoch's remarkable insight into human action. Once the reason for Hilary's abominable behavior becomes clear, you can't help but share Murdoch's empathy for him and, thereafter, the novel blooms and rips along with all the key relationships intertwining in increasingly intense ways. The conclusion is deeply satisfying on every level: dramatically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This was my first sampling of Murdoch. She is a stunning writer and I'm very glad to have "discovered" her for myself.
Was this review helpful to you?
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Best July 20, 2004
Oh, Iris, how I miss you. I first began reading Iris Murdoch in college, for a Philosophy in Lit. class, and was immediately captivated by "A Severed Head", which remains high on my list of favorites. But it is "A Word Child" to which I return most often.

Iris Murdoch's breathtakingly simple and yet piercing prose is at its best in this novel. Her theme is obsession, as always, and while we cannot approve of Hilary, the narrator, we find ourselves liking him for his honesty and his uncompromising view of himself. At first I was disappointed with the outcome of this brilliant novel, then I realized it truly was redemptive. Anyone who adores stellar writing and an eye that sees straight into the human heart must own this novel.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique style December 11, 2000
By A Customer
I recently re-read "A Word Child" and was completely charmed by it. I hardly know where to begin listing its merits. Firstly it is good and true and seeks to make us better people in a very practical way. Too earnest for the 2000s? We shall see. Secondly it is beautiful and mystical and full of the poetry of human action. Thirdly it is humble and funny and messy and REAL. Reading Iris Murdoch is like reading no other modern author: how clear and generous her prose style is, how non-"tricksy". She was a great writer about London too: why do we forget this? I think her reputation is entirely secure as the greatest English novelist of her age and she will be read and loved by readers when many other flashier talents are long forgotton.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iris Murdoch may be a new favorite author of mine... September 4, 2011
By Lauren
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had never read any novels by Iris Murdoch until I randomly decided to download 'A Word Child' onto my Kindle. I could not put it down once I started reading it. It is a gorgeously written book about a sad, bitter, unarguably hateful little man who lives a shabby life in a shabby London flat. Yet Murdoch manipulates her anti-hero and her other characters to weave a tale about the mundane connections we have to others in our lives that grows into a thing of such enormity and, at times, such horror, one has no choice but to examine the underbelly of love for what it really is. Obsessions, petty jealousies, and tenacious memories lead to ruinous events for everyone involved.

This book is an utter must-read and I have since downloaded three more books by the brilliant Murdoch.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murdoch will win you over....despite yourself. November 7, 2011
By Cynthia
Hilary Burde grows up in poverty, abused. He's saved by a tutor who notices his language skills and works with him to hone them. Hillary is admitted to Oxford and finds a lush learning environment and yet another devoted tutor. He thrives and dreams of saving himself and his younger sister from their childhood. Just when he's ready to soar he commits a horrible act and his world crashes. Burde is one of the most despicable literary characters I think I've ever encountered yet Murdoch's portrayal is compelling, her revelatory pacing exquisite.

Hillary seems to say "I can't forgive myself so it's your responsibility to, if not forgive me, excuse my bad behavior towards you. You owe me. I'm entitled to indulge my basest instincts. I hate myself so much I'm entitled to hate and abuse you." His outlook is pretty mesmerizing. Murdoch's style is outside almost any other writer. The writing is at times incredibly beautiful but the characters, especially the main one, are horrible. I've read her "Black Prince' and "The Nice and the Good" which I also liked but "A Word Child" is on a whole different level. I wish I could say I loved her books but they're so lurid I can't. As with all her books "Word" has an aura of exulted learning, the kind that Oxford and other institutions of its ilk are known for. It makes the action harder to relate to. "The educated Psychopath" could be an alternate title.

Though "Word Child" was written in the mid 80's it could easily be mistaken for something written in the fifties because the mores and sexism would be more at home during that time. Maybe Philip Roth was her proof reader, though this cast of characters prove not only men can be misogynists. More likely Murdoch's illustrating a point about one individual's twisted mind.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly fantastic read June 1, 2003
This is one of those books that you simply cannot put down once you begin. Murdoch does such an excellent job of creating a most complex and entertaining character (Hilary) -- I laughed while reading it so much I think my husband will be reading it next. An amazingly developed character, a plot that will keep you turning the page, and sorrow so palpable you will want to weep on poor Hilary's behalf.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Iris Murdoch - A Great Addiction to Have
I "discovered" Iris Murdoch by accident twenty years ago -- read almost all her books then in paperback. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marilyn Stokes
2.0 out of 5 stars No American woman would fall in love with Hilary
Murdoch is a wonderful writer and drags you into her creations. I, however, did not enjoy The Word Child. Hilary is just a totally despicable person. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marilynn M. Slade
5.0 out of 5 stars First Murdoch
As my title states, this is the first novel by Iris Murdoch that I've read. I wasn't expecting to be riveted, but I was. Read more
Published 4 months ago by William D. Hunker
1.0 out of 5 stars Trash
It is vulgar.
Published 8 months ago by Phyllis E. Rose
3.0 out of 5 stars Character development was excellent. A great book for
I found it a very slow read. It took almost 2/3 of the way before the story hooked me. Character development was excellent. A great book for discussion
Published 9 months ago by Theresa O'Sullivan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed reading this book wonderful descripted writing.
Published 10 months ago by Jean Bayoumi
5.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating and inspiring
It is frustrating as a writer to see how Iris Murdoch is able to paint an atmosphere with words. It is inspiring at the same time because she shows it is possible. Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. B. Q. Tocino
5.0 out of 5 stars classic
read it as an angsty teen & again as an adult. quick read filled with wacky characters; themes of redemption and love.
Published 17 months ago by sara lucas-dreiss
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally, an Iris Murcock novel
I saw the Judi Dench movie "Iris" years ago and have not forgotten the impact I felt. So when I saw "A Word Child" advertised on my Kindle I jumped at the... Read more
Published on June 2, 2013 by Duane M. Timm
3.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Murdoch . . .
. . . and in the words of a wine connoisseur, a bit to dry and acidic for my pallet.I also need more paragraphs and pauses to catch my breath.
Published on February 3, 2013 by R. Martin
Search Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was one of the most influential British writers of the twentieth century. She was awarded the 1978 Booker Prize for The Sea, The Sea, won the Royal Society Literary Award in 1987, and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 by Queen Elizabeth. Her final years were clouded by a long struggle with Alzheimer's before her passing in 1999.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category