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A Word Child by [Murdoch, Iris]
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A Word Child Kindle Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Vivid . . . discriminating prose.” —The New York Times
“Marvelous . . . riveting . . . fine and elegant.” —The Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) is the author of twenty-six novels, including Under the Net, The Black Prince, and The Sea, The Sea, as well as several plays and a volume of poetry. Murdoch taught philosophy at Oxford before leaving to write fulltime, winning such literary awards as the Booker Prize and the PEN Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature.


Product Details

  • File Size: 2954 KB
  • Print Length: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (July 9, 2010)
  • Publication Date: July 20, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003V4ASM2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,475 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris Murdoch wrote beautifully, although her subject matter often involved difficult or horrible struggles for the characters. "A Word Child" is written and constructed in this mode. A working class boy and his sister hope to find salvation from their horrible childhood circumstances as orphans through the talent for languages that the boy discovers rather late in school. However, this late blooming is not too late to keep the boy, Hilary, from admission to Oxford University, where he performs extremely well and is offered a position. The first year of his fellowship is the highest point of their lives for both Hilary and his sister Crystal. It will not be matched ever again. A violent, angry streak, coupled with a complete void of love in his life except where his sister is concerned, lead to tragedy for the young man, loss of his job, and a life of oblivion in small, mindless positions. The book describes this prehistory in flashbacks, while living in "the present," where Hilary is a clerk and civil service employee. Hilary is unquestionably odd, with a tendency to cruelties of the minor kind, though these cruelties certainly add up for those on the receiving end. Hilary controls all aspects of his interactions with others in a manner that seems related to mild autism (but I'm not professionally qualified to diagnose the symptoms). His facility for languages is undiminished, but his financial circumstances are not far above dire, and he has no real friends.

The comforting dullness of the life of penance that Hilary has chosen for himself is shattered when the very man whom he betrayed, his former mentor at Oxford named Gunnar, is announced as the new head of Hilary's Civil Service Department.
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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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