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An Unofficial Rose Paperback – January 6, 1987

15 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This 1986 Murdoch is a Shakespearean comedy of misaligned lovers, minus the spirits and potions. Here the characters are responsible for their own actions, and Murdoch delights in painting these young, middle-aged and elderly adventurers and the psychological processes that direct their actions. Hugh's wife, Fanny, dies after 40 years of marriage; his former lover, Emma, appears at the funeral. Hugh becomes wild to win her love again, while neighbor Mildred (with her gay husband Humphrey's blessing) has designs on Hugh. Hugh's son Randall, meanwhile, is madly in love with Emma's companion/secretary Lindsey who may or may not be having an affair with her employer while Randall's wife Ann yearns for Mildred's brother Felix, who, in turn, has always secretly adored her. But it is the scheming of Miranda, Randall and Ann's teenaged daughter, that ultimately determines the outcomes of their lives, for better and for worse. Cozenove has a deep and melodic reading voice and a charming British accent that work well with this material, though his renditions of Hugh and Emma are a bit too elderly and scratchy for the characters and the story.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"One feels a power of intellect quite exceptional in a novelist." --Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 6, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014002154X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140021547
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,940,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Fanny Perronet was dead. The opening line of "An Unofficial Rose" echoes that of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", and the novel itself deals with of events set in motion by Fanny's death. Her widower, Hugh, a retired civil servant, considers returning to Emma, his former mistress with whom he had an affair more than twenty years earlier. Hugh and Fanny's son Randall considers leaving his wife, Ann, for his own mistress, Lindsay, who is Emma's close friend and companion. Ann also has an admirer in the shape of Felix Meecham, an Army officer who has for many years been platonically in love with her. Felix's older sister Mildred, the unhappily married wife of Hugh's former colleague and neighbour Humphrey Finch, is in love with Hugh. Although the novel is relatively short, the plot is a complex one- too complex to be summarised here- but it revolves around Hugh's decision whether or not to sell a valuable painting.

The title, derived from Rupert Brooke's poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester", refers on a literal level to the fact that Randall and Ann run a successful rose-growing business. There is, however, more to it than that. There always is with roses in English literature. A daffodil or a chrysanthemum, a red campion or a viper's bugloss, can be just a flower; a rose has to have a symbolic meaning. It can be a symbol of love, of truth, of beauty, of transience, of Englishness. By an "unofficial" rose Brooke meant a wild rose of the hedgerows which he contrasts with the "official" cultivated flowers of the Berlin garden in which he is sitting, demonstrating his preference for the natural over the artificial.

In the context of Murdoch's novel, Brooke's unofficial rose becomes a complex symbol. All the five elements mentioned above play a part in the book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Buzalka on December 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
One of Iris Murdoch's least known novels, An Unofficial Rose (1962) deals with unrequited love as just about every character is infatuated with someone who does not reciprocate that feeling. There is a wife who remains in love with the husband who abandons her while she in turn is pined after by a neighbor, who in turn is pined after by a young teen girl, who is pined after by a slightly older teen boy, who is pined after by a semi-closeted gay man, whose wife pines after the philandering husband's father, who pines after his long-ago love, who pines after the young woman the philandering husband runs away with. Well, you get the picture. Even the one character who seemingly gets what he wants doesn't because his beloved has more base motives for acceding to him. This all sounds intriguing but, frankly, it left me a bit cold. It's just a little too mechanical. Murdoch's prose is always worth reading but this shouldn't be the first choice. It's a fairly minor entry in a celebrated body of work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laurie A. Brown VINE VOICE on April 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
‘An Unofficial Rose’ is a family story- a very dysfunctional family. The matriarch has just died, and the day of her funeral starts the book. With Fanny dead, Hugh Peronett is now free to rekindle an old relationship with Emma. His son, Randall, wants to be free of his wife, Ann, so that he can pursue Emma’s companion, Lindsey. Hugh’s grandson by his absent daughter, Penn, is visiting for the summer, and he pursues Randall and Ann’s daughter, Miranda-and he is in turn pursued by another character. Meanwhile, members of another family also pursue various members of the Peronett family. Everyone wants someone else and there is not one simple relationship in the whole thing. This is a very flawed cast of characters; only Ann and Penn seem to be unafflicted with the urge to manipulate people that the others seem to have so strongly.
The book, written in 1962, is of course a product of its time. Ann is encouraged by the priest to stay married to Randall, even though he has deserted her for another woman, because marriage is forever and she can help Randall-even if he never comes back- by forgiving him and praying for him. A straight woman and a gay man stay together in an open marriage of convenience. It’s all right to have Randall, when asked by Lindsey what he would do if she changed her mind about having sex with him that night, say “I shall probably beat you and certainly rape you” and she accepts that rather than run screaming into the night.

In the end, the identity of the prime manipulator is a surprise. While there are some clues throughout the book, it’s still not what you expect; it must have been a bit shocking in 1962.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anna Galasso on November 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris is my favorite, so I might be partial, but I love almost everything that she has written. All her characters are so multidimensional and vivid and the plot though always s secondary to the depth and beauty of her narration of human character is always so unobtrusively naturally weaved into the book. Love it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd never been able to finish any of Iris Murdoch's novels when I was a young student. Her husband's account of her last years with Alzheimer's disease and its film version led me to try again and I started with this book. I'm afraid her work, wrought as it is in exquisite detail, still doesn't really attract me or hold my attention more than for brief moments at a time. She weaves a very complex tapestry of the complex situations of her characters, and describes their overt and covert actions to try to fulfill their emotional needs whilst also meeting their moral obligations. This should be fascinating, especially when drawn in beautiful prose with structural competence, but they fail to engage me and reading becomes a chore. This time around I did finish the book, but only because I have learned speed reading techniques since I tried to tackle her novels when young. Controversial subjects come up in subliminal discussions about sexuality and moral obligations to society and family The problems are not resolved, and life seems to go on in a never-ending moral fog where there is no right or wrong. The author wrote at a time when introspection was fashionable and people were letting go some former ideals of self-sacrifice, unselfishness and moral obligation. But they seem to get no pleasure from their reactive moral freedom and to get stuck in unattractive introspective selfishness,
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