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Under the Net Paperback – October 27, 1977

ISBN-13: 978-0140014457 ISBN-10: 0140014454 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (October 27, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140014454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140014457
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Iris Murdoch has imposed her alternative world on us as surely as Christopher Columbus or Graham Greene.” -- Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Introduction by Kiernan Ryan

Iris Murdoch's first novel is a gem -- set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a likable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging off his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. --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

It is a great thing to make someone laugh out loud while reading and this book did it continually.
Eric Anderson
Murdoch's genius is to present the solution to these existentialist dilemmas on the surface of the book through the hilarious forms of ludic absurdity.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that it consists of a first person narrative of a male character, written by a woman.
Alan Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I audibly laughed through half the scenes of this amazing first novel. It is a great thing to make someone laugh out loud while reading and this book did it continually. Whether it be the point where Jake Donaghue sits outside Sadie's flat listening to the "plot" against him with the neighbours poking him to see what he'll do or the superhero stunts of Jake and Hugo at the Roman set saving Lefty. I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the clever wit of the situation. But, what is amazing is that behind all of this there are deep philosophical thoughts at work, but the spaciousness of these thoughts never intrude upon the enjoyability of the story. It is similar in that way to Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, but the comedy in this is up a few notches more. The story is deeply routed in London (with a side-trip to Paris) and this location no doubt gives all the more joy to readers familiar to the area with its deep descriptions of particular sections and jabs at the reputations of others. Yet, this too did not detract from the book's enjoyability because of the eloquence of her descriptions. "When caught unawares," Jake reflects, "I usually tell the truth, and what's duller that that." The book is one long reflection and so, according to this line, we are thenceforth suspicious of all we are told. Many points of his memory are probably deeply exaggerated and this would explain some of the all too convenient coincidences. But, who cares? It's a good, entertaining story. Ultimately, Murdoch is presenting a rather ideal view of the independent will of the free spirit. Jake's hope is neatly set forth at the end. But the ideals of living in regards to work and love, wealth and fame seem to be given a manageable frame in which to work in.Read more ›
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Cuthbert on February 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Had been meaning to get round to Murdoch for some years but was expecting a fairly heavy read. In fact, after the first 70 pages or so in which I was unsure about the direction I was being taken, I found that I was laughing aloud for much of the book (rare in my case), which is not something I had expected. The set pieces of the book are conceived with great originality & a deeply quirky, Irish type of humour. The characters themselves remain - intentionally - rather hard to fathom for most of the book, adding to a mildly dark sense of mystery which leads us (and them) on from one episode to the next. This also adds to our questioning about what direction the author is trying to take us. Inevitably, the answer is largely subjective - but what added to my appreciation of the novel after I finished reading was that rather than attempting to draw a broad prescriptive lesson about life, it is rather a celebration of the individual and offers humour and a kind of resolution - or at least positive progress - even in the midst of the most confused and unheroic of lives. This is a picaresque novel peopled principally by (lovable) roguish empiricists - not one for those craving a strong plot. I loved it. And I have an implicit confidence that this is an author of such skill & originality that I shall enjoy any of her remaining 25 novels (this being her first). Even when I have hugely enjoyed reading a book, I have rarely, if ever, looked forward to reading other novels by the same author with such confidence and relish.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jake, a marginal literary figure who gets by translating French novels, veers erratically from one obsession to another. He goes from determined pursuit to avoidance in the blink of an eye. Whenever he gets what he has indicated that he wants, he spurns it. He is maddeningly arbitrary, but also fascinating because the author deftly expresses the flux of thought and impulse that motivate human action (and inaction). The other characters serve primarily as foils for his shifting attitudes. Only by conspicuous exertion is Jake able to even conceive of Hugo, his hulking sometime companion, becoming a watchmaker or of Finn, his longtime "shadow", returning to Ireland. They exist only as they play a role in Jake's life. The most significant development, in a story where things largely end up where they started, is Finn's replacement by a dog (not necessarily a flattering commentary on Finn).
The one non-ancillary character is "Mrs. Tinck", the news store proprietor, who, benevolent soul that she is, comes across as an interesting person in her own right. The book effectively begins and ends in her shop. She is also the one who, gently, helps Jake to take himself less seriously. She accomplished this, in a scene at the end of the story, in a fashion that left me smiling as I closed the book.
While some of the plotting seems unnecessarily complicated, some of the dialogue far too (intentionally?) stilted, and there are too many coincidences, the overall effect of this book is dazzling. The best scenes: Jake and Finn stealing Mars; Jake following Anna into the Tuileries Gardens; and all the scenes with Mrs. Tinck more than offset the comparative clunkers with Lefty Todd and Hugo.
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