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The Italian Girl Paperback – February 22, 1979

3.5 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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"She was always in the front rank of unpredictable, original, serious writers exploring the deeper themes of ancient as well as contemporary experience"

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Edmund has escaped from his family into a lonely life. Returning for his mother's funeral he rediscovers the eternal family servant, the ever-changing Italian girl, who was always "a second mother." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 22, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140025596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140025590
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,274,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
It is a huge pity that such a good novel is spoiled as an ebook by so many "typos" that come from poor scanning I suppose. Surely there should be proofreading after a book is scanned and before it is sold as an ebook?
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By HORAK on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Edmund Narraway, an engraver, is the narrator in this stunning novel by Iris Murdoch. One day he returns to his family house in northern England for the funeral of his recently deceased mother Lydia. Otto, Edmund's brother, a stone mason, still lives in the house with his wife Isabel and daughter Flora, along with Maria Magistrelli - Maggie - the nurse whom both Otto and Edmund consider as their second "mother". She is the Italian girl who brought up the two boys since neither their father John - a "nonentity" - nor Lydia - an intensely mean woman - took any part in their upbringing.

Their childhood passed in an alternate frenzy of jealousy and of suffocation from their mother and Edmund feels that, although he didn't return to the house for many years, he never escaped from Lydia, that she got inside him, into the depth of his being and that there was no abyss and no darkness where she was not. And soon Edmund discovers that the remaining relatives still living in the old house are entangled in a web of deceit and false pretence. Flora is pregnant by David Levkin, Otto's apprentice, who is now having an affair with Isabel whereas Elsa, David's sister, is Otto's lover. Edmund quickly realises that his brother Otto, a violently tempered man, has become an alcoholic and he wonders whether he isn't himself rapidly becoming part of "the machine". Soon he feels agitated, exasperated and confused. He finds the whole situation "too scandalous, too outrageous". Edmund is constantly on the brink of leaving, not wanting "to be inside such a circle of hell". But due to his sympathy or weakness, he feels that his presence is needed by both his sister and his niece. But little does he know about the outcome of his stay at the old family house...
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Format: Paperback
I honestly can't ever imagine giving an Iris Murdoch novel less than four stars. Her books are almost uniformly well written and compelling. This is no exception.
The Italian Girl tells the story of an unhappy family on the eve of the death of the family matriarch. The characters include a spartan typesetter, two witchy Russian siblings, a disappointed housewife, and (of course) the Italian Girl.
I don't find this novel to be one of her strongest (not compared to books like The Bell or The Sandcastle) but then again, I can't imagine a book of hers that isn't worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
The dark, engrossing story of a family falling apart after the evil-sounding mother figure passes away. The main character Edmund returns to his childhood home to find his brother is living a quite complicated, mixed up lifestyle. Edmund tries to help all members of the family, but tries to not get too involved. A good dark family story, with a happy ending--for Edmund at least.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris Murdoch wrote 26 novels as well as other philosophical tracts and won various prizes before succumbing to Alzeimer's when she was 79. The Times of London at one point named her 12th of the 50 greated Britishitish writers since 1945".She was very "in" about 30 years ago andemember always taking for granted that she was a great writer although I may only have read "he Sea, The Sea". I was attracted to this book because of the reference to Italy where I live but I have no trouble in saying it may be one of the worst books I have read in my long and readerly life. A stupid melodramatic plot fueled by stupid melodramatic characters that is so bad I thought maybe it was one of her later books, written after she had begun to develop Alzheimer's. It wasn't. It was written in 1964 when she was still in her prime. I enclose below a copy of some of the lines from the plot summary of the book I found on Widipekia. After reading them I don't think anyone would pick up this book, much less buy it.
"Edmund Narraway returns to his family home, an old rectory in the north of England, for the cremation of his mother, Lydia. His brother, Otto, probably drunk, starts giggling during the service, and has to be taken outside. Edmund is disgusted rather than scandalised, yet he immediately finds himself fascinated by Otto's daughter, his own niece, who is now a teenager and, for the first time since Edmund last saw her, sexually mature. After the service Isabel, Otto's apparently neurotic wife, attempts to involve Edmund in her small and frustrated life. He at first refuses. When Edmund later talks to his self-pitying brother, he detects evidence of a sexual tension between Otto and his apprentice David Levkin.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
'The Italian Girl' is someone whose influence lies in the recesses of the protagonist's being, and is not the center of the story as I had expected she would be. Iris Murdoch underlines her role, and those who came before her. Murdoch's characters' lives are vastly influenced by the presences and stabilities of 'The Italian Girl', instead of the reality, experiences, and hard mind-sets that prevailed in their hard lives. In this book, Ms. Murdoch handles some very controversial topics that are not necessarily resolved, and which to my mind, is very true to life and stresses reality, and the range of options that are available to all of us, if we are strong enough.
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