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A Word Child Paperback – January 6, 1987


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 6, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140081534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140081534
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Deeply moving and entertaining" New York Times "The readability of a novel like A Word Child is almost appallingly powerful" Independent "It would be difficult to speak too highly of the extraordinary skill and confidence here displayed" -- Frank Kermode "From the beginning of her career, Iris Murdoch seemed to enlarge the possibilities in front of the English novel. She was a writer of wonderful, and sometimes rather alarming idiosyncrasy... Hers was a liberating and a generous imagination" Independent --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

Customer Reviews

I could not put this book aside quickly enough.
David
Main character is just plain stupid and never learns from his mistakes.
color gal
I found it very boring it was hard to finish the book!
afabriczi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Sean ODWYER on 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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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By J. A Bowen on 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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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 2000
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 By Cynthia on November 7, 2011
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 By A. Meshiea on 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 By Lauren on September 4, 2011
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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