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A Word Child [Kindle Edition]

Iris Murdoch
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $14.99 What's this?
Print List Price: $26.99
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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

Review

“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 20, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003V4ASM2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,694 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Murdoch Fan January 2, 2001
Format:Paperback
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.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Best July 20, 2004
Format:Paperback
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.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique style December 11, 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murdoch will win you over....despite yourself. November 7, 2011
By Cynthia
Format:Paperback
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly fantastic read June 1, 2003
Format:Hardcover
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.
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8 of 9 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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Trash
It is vulgar.
Published 1 month 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 2 months ago by Theresa O'Sullivan
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I enjoyed reading this book wonderful descripted writing.
Published 3 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 5 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 9 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 16 months ago 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 20 months ago by R. Martin
1.0 out of 5 stars A Word Child
This was one of the wordiest books I've ever read, and I would not recommend it to anyone. Somehow, I managed to finish it, but wondered why I bothered.
Published 21 months ago by Pete Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars like the bones of a baby, exquisite and delicate yet so substancial
This book is about a very damaged human being who is so brilliant and lyrical in his splintered soul you are compelled to read on, just to know if he finds redemption. Read more
Published 21 months ago by mean incognito monkey
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't enjoy this book at all
I bought this as a Kindle Daily Deal, thinking it sounded interesting for $1.99. I thought it was quite horrible. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Stephanie Stupic
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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.

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