Read Nuns and Soldiers by Iris Murdoch Karen Armstrong Online

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Set in London and in the South of France, this brilliantly structured novel centers on two women: Gertrude Openshaw, bereft from the recent death of her husband, yet awakening to passion; and Anne Cavidge, who has returned in doubt from many years in a nunnery, only to encounter her personal Christ. A fascinating array of men and women hover in urgent orbit around them: thSet in London and in the South of France, this brilliantly structured novel centers on two women: Gertrude Openshaw, bereft from the recent death of her husband, yet awakening to passion; and Anne Cavidge, who has returned in doubt from many years in a nunnery, only to encounter her personal Christ. A fascinating array of men and women hover in urgent orbit around them: the "Count," a lonely Pole obsessively reliving his &eacutemigr&eacute father's patriotic anguish; Tim Reede, a seedy yet appealing artist, and Daisy, his mistress; the manipulative Mrs. Mount; and many other magically drawn characters moving between desire and obligation, guilt and joy. This edition of Nuns and Soldiers includes a new introduction by renowned religious historian Karen Armstrong....

Title : Nuns and Soldiers
Author :
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ISBN : 9780142180099
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Nuns and Soldiers Reviews

  • N W James
    2019-05-14 19:07

    My jury is still out on this one. Honestly, I'm not sure if I really liked it or really hated it.SPOILERS AHOY AHOYThe unrequited love story lines felt genuine. But there were instances where I didn't fully understand a character's motivations: Gertrude and Tim's break-up and their lack of communication, Manfred and Veronica's doings at the end there, pretty much anything Gertrude did of her own volition.I didn't care as much for the characters individually as I did for their relationships. The exceptions were Tim, all bumbly and unsure of his status as Gertrude's second love, and the delightfully bitter Daisy. Daisy's encounter with Anne was memorable. I think Iris Murdoch is at her best when she's writing dialogue. The conversation between those two characters in that scene spans from friendly curiosity to aggression/submission to an understanding between the two women about their similarities. And later when Anne tells Gertrude that she liked Daisy, the reader understands how a woman could be fond of someone she almost fled from in fear.There really was no climax in this story, was there? I suppose Guy's passing could be considered one but most of the action of the plot takes place between Tim and Gertrude after Guy is out of the picture. Anne's moving out the first time might be considered a climax but she moves back in rather quickly and it doesn't change anything much. If Anne had point blank told the Count of her longing that would have been the climax. But that scene sadly never occurred. The Count was still so wrapped up in his lust for G. that he never saw what was right in front of him. I think that touches on what I didn't like about the book. Everyone was waiting for something to happen. The characters were all so stupidly passive - it felt like most of the book was each character ruminating on what they would do if they had the balls to change their lives. Frustrating. Here's the short letter I would have written to the characters if I could have:Anne - anyone who claims to have lost their religion but is still seeing Jesus in her kitchen has some unresolved issues. I agree the Count is ridiculous for not noticing what you're doing for him; but, girrrl, there are so many other fish in the sea. Including two people in the group that are rich and sweet on you! Grab those bulls by the horn (so to speak) and forget the forlorn Pole who's happy to share the love of his life with a hippy painter.Count - stop feeling sorry for yourself and take a risk. You're a grown man and the love of your life married a no-talent painter. She isn't too hung up with titles and social class, is she? What the hell are you waiting for?Gertrude - who the eff do you think you are demanding all of your friends to stay in your life to console you? If you truly loved them, you would let them go. Yes, losing Guy is difficult and I see no issues with you leaning on friends to help you through it. But requiring them to stay involved in your self-absorbed life is not doing them any favors.I think that may also be why I liked Daisy - she was the only character in the novel that took things at face value and had an ending with some hope. I'd like to think she quit drinking and went back to painting and became successful.

  • truthnwisdom
    2019-05-20 22:13

    When I finally reached the end of Nuns and Soldiers, all I felt was relief. I took quite a bit of time to make it to the end, 6 weeks. The book is very much Iris Murdoch, examining the philosophy of life, love, religion. The story's central figure, Gertrude went through her own personal turmoil, falling in love with a being who was considered to be morally and socially inferior after the passing of her husband. The web of lies spun, deceits thrown and emotional upheavals of the characters around Gertrude when the relationship was disclosed were well-doctored. The author's crafting of the brewing emotions was not lost on me but somehow, this book, did not get to me like the Sea, the Sea. The central theme which I gathered is jealousy. Ann was jealous of the Count's lifelong pledge to Gertrude, the Count's own descent into the hell of jealousy upon the discovery of Gertrude's affair... The story did drag out a bit and was tiresome. Oddly, I feel no sympathy to any of the characters and their sufferings. They had willingly placed themselves under the lock and chain of their personal prison. Overall, this book is dependable if you are a fan of Iris Murdoch which I am...

  • Shennety
    2019-05-18 15:07

    Солдаты любвиС творчеством Айрис Мердок знакома не понаслышке, более того, отношу ее к разряду моих любимых, если не самых любимых, авторов. Если честно, я заметила, что я неохотно принимаюсь читать очередную ее книгу, но вовсе не по той причине, что вы наверняка подумали. Просто мне неимоверно нравится работы Айрис Мердок и первое время я читала их взахлеб, практически одну за другой, пока не наступил тот роковой момент, когда "нетронутых" осталась самая малость. Теперь же я оттягиваю удовольствие и с ужасом думаю о том моменте, когда в этом списке больше не останется ни одной нечитанной книги. При чем стоит отметить, что несмотря на внушительное количество написаных работ, все ее книги между собой не похожи друг на друга. Единственное, что их несомненно объединяет, подчеркивая стиль писательницы, так это тонкая психологическая игра, которую ведет с нами Айрис. Нет, это вовсе не триллер какой-то или новомодный детектив с закрученным сюжетом, но вниз есть что-то от домашнего уюта, где детально прорисовываются герои и их проблемы. С одной стороны, все предельно знакомо и, казалось бы, ничего подобного, ведь мы сталкиваемся с такими сюжетами чуть ли не каждый день в нашей повседневной жизни. С другой стороны, все это так умело и мастерски написано, что даже заведомо предсказуемые сюжеты нельзя назвать скучными - ты с упоением продолжаешь следить за каждым поворотом событий и...и... просто наслаждаешься хорошим языком. Нет, честно, вы знаете, в виду массового захвата книжного рынка всеми этими новомодными романами и бестселлерами, я стала все чаще замечать за собой, что мне катастрофически не хватает нормального литературного языка, со всеми его эпитетами, метафорами, сложными оборотами речи и как минимум "объемностью". Так вот, Мердок как раз идеальный, в этом плане, для меня автор, так как ее стиль все же не столь высокопарный, как у того же Набокова (которого я тоже очень люблю, как раз именно за высокий стиль) и Пруста, но при этом все же не примитивен. Но, давайте покончим с моим вступительным словом и перейдем наконец к самому сюжету книги.Перед нами история нескольких человек, ясно связанных между собой по какой-то причуде природы, которым и такая близость в тягость, но при этом расстаться они не в силах - невидимые нити держат мертвой хваткой. Роман начинается тем, что Айрис нам рассказывает о Гае, всеобщего любимца и человека несомненно заслуживающего уважения, но судьба, как правило бывает крайне несправедлива к таким людям, поэтому неудивительно, что Гаю суждено вскоре умереть, при чем об этом знают все, но все же не могут смириться с подобной несправедливостью. Жена Гая, Гертруда, тяжелей всех переживает болезнь супруга, так как искренне любит его и не представляет своей жизни без него. Как говорит сама героиня, когда Гай просит ее постараться оставаться счастливой после его смерти и повторно выйти замуж: "Гай, я не могу. Я тоже умру… буду ходить, разговаривать, но буду мертва… "Однако, как мы знаем, ничто не вечно, а слезные клятвы практически все со временем блекнут и забываются. "Как быстро прошлое способно потерять власть над человеком и что это за власть? что значит считать недели, месяцы, какую роль тут играет время?" Гай все же умирает, но сможет ли Гертруда придерживаться своего слова и как долго она, подобно прекрасной Елене из Одиссеи, сможет оказывать сопротивление осаждающим ее дом женихам?!Есть в романе так же не менее интересный персонаж, подруга юношества Гертруды, которая в свое время решила покинуть сий бренный мир, погрязший в грехах, и уйти в монахини, посвятив свою жизнь служению Богу. Тем не менее, как это случается (как мы имели возможность наблюдать в книге другого английского автора, Бойна, в его книге "Истрия одиночества"), вскоре она разочаровывается в своем решение и решает покинуть монастырь. В отличие от убеждений многих ее знакомых, Анна не утратила веры и продолжает искать своего Бога, более того, он даже является ей во снах, чтобы укрепить ее дух и любовь к нему, но теперь она понимает, что решение отказаться от мирских желаний было несколько поспешным, ибо ей, как и всем простым смертным, хочется любви и крепкого плеча рядом. До чего же мучительно наблюдать, когда мужчина твоей мечты влюблен в твою лучшую подругу и каждый раз приходит изливать свою душу тебе, не видя в тебе никого больше, кроме монашки, пусть и бывшей, и считает, что может доверить тебе свои горести. Более того, с каким-то изощренным мазохизмом ты еще и бросаешься ему помогать и "налаживаешь" его личную жизнь.Не менее интересно раскрыт образ юного и, как положено, бедного художника, Тима, который является дальнем родственником Гая. Тим привык жить всегда за чей-то счет, опускаясь до того, что приторговывает еду их холодильника своего состоятельного родственника. Вы спросите, почему он не зарабатывает себе на жизнь своим творчеством? Он пытается, но как-то не особо усердно, его работы посредственны и никто не хочет их покупать, от чего ему приходится "малевать" кошечек, которых так любят англичане. В личной жизни у него тоже не все гладко: его подруга Дейзи — художница, которая, решив завязать с этим, переться писать романы, но и это у нее не очень получается. Собственно, она только и говорит, что пишет, но по сути, дальше разговоров дело не продвигается. Оба очень гордятся тем, что «свободны и не отягчены собственностью», но пагубный образ жизни, который они ведут, связал их по рукам и ногам как художников и как личности и, что они сами понимают, не дает двигаться вперед. Они погрязли в ежедневных проблемах и ссорах о том, как раздобыть деньги. Периодически они сходятся, чтобы вскоре опять расстаться с громким скандалом и взаимными обвинениями. Но вот однажды им приходит в голову гениальный план, как можно разжиться за счет богатенькой, но наивной, вдовушки...Чем закончится весь этот калейдоскоп человеческих жизней и непростых отношений, думаю, вам лучше узнать самим.Приятного прочтения!!!

  • Manny
    2019-05-21 17:04

    I find Iris Murdoch novels as hard to keep separated in my head as Bond movies. Usually, though, there is at least one memorable incident which I clearly associate with the book.Here, the scene I remember involves Gertrude and the odd, slightly geeky character that everyone calls the Count. Gertrude asks him whether he'd like to play chess. She's a complete beginner. He's very good, though she isn't aware of this. She's surprised when he refuses. "Why not?" she asks. He says, "Because it would be a completely different game for me." And at that moment, Gertrude suddenly feels very close to him...****************************************************I cheated and looked at the Wikipedia entry to get some more clues as to which book this was. Okay, it was the one where the ex-nun has the very strange encounter with Jesus. That's also a great scene. I should say, in case you're wondering, that I love both Iris Murdoch and Bond. I just wish I had a better memory.

  • Courtney
    2019-05-23 17:24

    I love Iris Murdoch. I am working my way through her entire catalog. A novel of two women: Gertrude Openshaw, bereft from the recent death of her husband, yet awakening to passion; and Anne Cavidge, who has returned in doubt from many years in a nunnery, only to encounter her personal Christ. A fascinating array of men and women hover in urgent orbit around them: the "Count," a lonely Pole obsessively reliving his émigré father's patriotic anguish; Tim Reede, a seedy yet appealing artist, and Daisy, his mistress; the manipulative Mrs. Mount; and many other magically drawn characters moving between desire and obligation, guilt and joy.

  • Kathy
    2019-05-16 14:30

    I once characterized the typical Iris Murdoch plot as A loves B, who is involved with C, who wants to give his/her life to a Great Ideal.Well, that's symplistic, of course. But I love Murdoch nonetheless, even though reading all her novels in the space of a summer of romance (I being in love with A, who loved B, and so on) I did find myself making bets with myself as to which page the black dog would appear upon, and where the stones would figure. She's unique. You will love her or you will be wholly.. "what???" about her.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-18 16:29

    The reviews on the bookjacket said this novel was about deceptions- deliberate and unconscious, inward and outward, but I felt it was more about the very different impulses that motivate people, paradoxically and overlapping, and an exploration of how four fundementally decent people attempt to navigate and make sense of the mysterious, inexplicable things that motivate them. And Iris Murdoch writes some exceptional sentences.

  • R. Lawrence
    2019-04-26 21:17

    Iris is one author I wish were still alive and writing. Fantastic Author and books.

  • Stephen Brody
    2019-05-15 19:07

    I don’t know how many times I’ve read this because my paperback copy (1982) has fallen apart, it’s just a pile of loose pages. Iris Murdoch’s novels are like Bach’s fugues, no matter how many times they’re read or played there’s always something new. I started this one again in the middle of the recent edition of Murdoch’s letters, meaning with yet another light on it, because it exasperated a good many ‘critics’ who made it their business to infer from it usually unflattering and – as it turns out - inaccurate interpretations of the authoress. It’s true that Nuns and Soldiers is a puzzling novel and, read literally, lends itself to ridicule. The nun, Anne Cavidge, is a genteelly hysterical nut-case who seems to go in for extreme gestures without any idea of why and in one episode receives a thrilling visit, in her kitchen, from no less a personage than Jesus. Escaped from her convent she latches on to her old pal Gertrude Openshaw, a complacently well-off woman who goes in for clothes in various shades of patterned mustard and mud to which she adds the odd floating Indian scarf in violent blue. While Gertrude kindly corrects Anne’s mousier dress sense they go on like a pair of fearfully earnest schoolgirls congratulating themselves on their own superior cleverness, flicking through Greek grammars, pretending to learn Urdu and engaging in (or vaguely talking about) desultory amateur ‘social work’. Gertrude’s husband, Guy, has been an official in the Home Office where his evidently very meagre duties leave him plenty of time to think about writing some profound work of his own (he’s a frankly incredible paragon of knowledge and sagacity and the last person therefore the British Public Service by that time would dream of employing). He didn’t get around to anything, probably because being indolent and possibly not really very bright he never would have but also because early in the story he dies a remarkably stoical and dignified death, granting his wife the blessing of urging her to marry someone else and “be happy”. A wispy and melancholy stray Pole (the ‘soldier’) nervously and un-optimistically contemplates the prospect. As a contrast to all that there’s a bunch of Jewish relatives as hard as nails and with ideas that are far from philosophical and a pair of disorderly hand-to-mouth bohemians who scrounge for a living because they have principles against out-and-out theft. It’s hard to stop reading from wondering what on earth Murdoch, a master story-teller, can possibly do with this lot and knowing for sure that she’ll be doing something surprising; it’s a source of interested speculation as to how far her enormous range of characters derive from observations of actual people and if they do where in her academic stronghold did she come across them?The scene deftly changes to an unnaturally-isolated part of the South of France where Gertrude and the dithery male bohemian (a not very good ‘artist’, needless to say) promptly though with much discussion and soul-searching (“intense careful colloquy….vast metaphysical doubts assailed them”, etc) ‘fall in love’ while he wonders what he’ll do when his girl-friend, a belligerent feminist, turns up, as she’s supposed to any day (she hates all men but puts up with him because he’s too wet to count as one). The setting is a sinister-sounding rock-strewn landscape and an uncomfortable-sounding converted farm-house: “the sitting-room was large and square with two white-plastered walls where shaggy centipedes sat or scurried about like little bits of mobile carpet …. The furniture was simple, mostly made of cane with copious flowery cushions … One picture hung on the wall, a Munch reproduction of three stranded girls on a bridge”. Dowdy domestic settings with matching wardrobes and awful run-up meals are Murdochian stock-in-trades, and I don’t know whether I’m alone or not in finding this hilarious, partly because I don’t think it’s meant to be; Murdoch seems to have preserved a state of innocent naivety in some matters alongside the formidable intelligence and these lovingly-described settings are simply those of middle-class inter- and post-War austerity when no-one had heard of ‘chic’ and housewives who didn’t run to a bumbling maid and slap-dash cook did as best as they could with what they could find. It seems weirdly out of place by the end of the 1970’s while at the same time the main characters are prototypes of their period – endlessly and uselessly ruminating on their own and the world’s moral problems, drifting about in a daze of respectable alcohol-fuelled guilt-ridden flower-strewn joy and radiance while remaining totally self-centred and lying their heads off to each other, often in language that would have embarrassed even D. H. Lawrence at his worst. But all this allows plenty of pegs for Murdoch to hang on her customary very serious musings on the real problem, how to manage what she calls the contingencies of life, most of which is made up of accidents which can only be made artificial sense of by ‘philosophy’ ("Our being spreads out far beyond us and mingles with the beings of others ... we live in other people's thoughts, in their plans, in their dreams, this is where there were God ...") and her very firm grasp on these things is clear from her handling of Daisy, Gertrude’s rapidly-new husband’s former ‘girl-friend’, and Mrs Mount, a 'poor' relation with a very astute eye who unfortunately has no more than a minor walk-on part, the only characters who seems substantially ‘real’ rather than allegorical. If she ever invited half-indignant parody it’s here, but that’s cheap, it’s necessary to read not between the lines but underneath them where she really shines forth, especially in the later part of what was earlier a farce; the blend as always is irresistible as the story convolutes with many twists and trials by ordeal towards some sort of conclusion which only half-satisfies anyone but temporarily shuts them up as they lurch off into further obscurities. It’s not perhaps her best novel but that’s still saying a good deal when she was incapable of writing a bad one.

  • Booker
    2019-05-06 15:23

    I first read this novel when I was in art school from the pov of a young budding artist. I am now enjoying it from an entirely different pov as an accomplished artist faced by the pains and struggle of social etiquette. Iris Murdoch is a relationship writer, sort of like Jane Austen, but British, semi-modern, I would also compare her human insights on feminine issues to those of Erica Jong, albeit more tame, almost in spite of her British modality. I really enjoy the picaresque descriptive writing.With Murdoch's masterful emotional twists and turns among her rational wrestling of the social disorder in the circles of Ebury Street, and the ever watching conscience of a guy named Guy, who is no longer with us, two women wrestle with the soul of love, the divine desire of "what women want" before Mel Gibson ever thought about it. The artist struggle is the spectacle from which all characters in the book eventually draw their resolve and criticisms. The marriage of passion and reason, a most unlikely choice, yet nevertheless shows us that love always beats the demon, whatever demon that was.. and Murdoch's subtle sense of time and humour are fulfilling.I was then who I am now.. nothing changes much, although it never stays the same.However, then I was an artist in art school seeing things from the perspective of a starving artist. nowadays I see it more through the eyes of the others in the artist's way. ie. seeing life as an artist through the eyes of the social elite as seen through the life of the artist. Both the relationship with Daisy and the affair with Gertrude, both are lives that I have lived since the first time I had read this when it came out in 1980. Just out of art school, I was intrigued with older women, because they had a story, now they kind of wear on my conscience and I much prefer the empty whim of a lithe fairy. The tale speaks both of the burdensome baggage of English social culture and the struggle of the artist to find place and meaning in any community where he/she may find themselves. I now can relate to Daisy as much as to Tim. Creativity knows no gender.. only critics think it so.

  • jrendocrine
    2019-04-29 14:10

    Not my favorite Murdoch (understatement). The beginning, with Guy and les tantes, and loss and grief, was very well done. Then when live after Guy began... zzzzz. The 4 main characters were just not interesting - widow Gertrude was self-serving and the epitome of ordinary, Tim the young lover was useless and ordinary, the Count was silly pretending to be a Pole when he was an ordinary English clerk - and even the "defrocked" nun was incapable of thinking anything new. Potentially extraordinary characters - Guy, who died too early, and Mrs Mount, who has nothing to say until the last 10 pages - were apparently not in the author's sights.

  • Liza
    2019-05-13 18:31

    Early on in Nuns and Soldiers, one character reminds another that it is their duty to resist despair. I actually was taken aback at that. Of all the reasons to resist despair somehow duty had never presented itself to me. And I'll tell you: it sounded good. There is something so appealing about that kind of simple moral authority. Unfortunately for our ability to gain consolation, but fortunately, I guess, for the quality of the novel, things don't remain so simple.

  • John Cairns
    2019-05-21 14:05

    Out of kindness a woman character gives a feckless young man of her family circle a job, that of looking after her holiday home in France, and then, because of circumstances, decides she has to get away herself and ends up there. Put like that, any reader might suspect ulterior motive on her part. Maybe so, but unknown to her. The author is implying an unconscious at work through the character’s consciousness, which has of course quite other rationalisations for her behaviour, to achieve its ends. You might think the like for the young man who went to her on the unlikely chance of financial aid in the first place, that he too is unknowingly driven. There follows one of the most rousing depictions of sexual love I’ve read, as good as any soft porn as I suppose art is. The not quite accurate quote is from Julian of Norwich perhaps via TS Eliot. A note from I presumed the feckless young man’s girlfriend he has thought malicious tells the circle of the affair the two lovers had agreed to keep secret, a mistake you might think, a too great concern for what others think but that is rather the point of the circle’s existence, isn’t it? The woman’s love is found wanting, on being found out, and the feckless young man does the honourable thing, leaving her to go back to his old girlfriend. Well, what’s a man supposed to do! Any old port in a storm. I should’ve known the quote was from The Twa Corbies makin a mane. Tim, the feckless young man, wouldn’t have expected Daisy, the long-term girlfriend, to be that vindictive, to have threatened his love. I think she could. What do you think? She’s a woman! She’s got him back. Then the totally unexpected happens. Another character, an ex-nun, considers Tim’s fall would grieve no one. Poor Tim, it grieved me. ‘He lay down on the floor ...and howled.’ Poor Tim! She says he’s a sort of moral imbecile but I like him. Her friend, the woman lover, bitterly resents him for his unspeakable treachery which wasn’t that bad in my opinion and for her own offensiveness to the shade of a male character, a shade! I don’t think so. How can you be offensive to a shade! Yet another character, the Count, agrees with me, ‘Poor Tim,’ who accuses Daisy of vindictiveness. She denies it and the author intervenes, in parentheses, to say it was another, very minor character whose drunken disclosure had been a piece of impromptu random societal spite. Words like ‘integrity’ and ‘honour’, new to him, occur to Tim and he wonders if they hadn’t got into his head from the Count’s. Could words do that? he asks himself. Not as such. If one is telepathising with a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, he will understand you and you him, though you might not speak Turkish, say, because telepathy is unconscious communication too fast for language though language has something to do with it because if you think to him he’s looking ill he might receive that as he’s bad looking and take offence and revenge by telling somebody else he’d had you sexually. Tch! Men! They turn nasty on a sixpence. But not to worry. You know you can deal with anything the conscious however clever can come up with, they’re so slow. There’s no realisation by Tim of any occasion of unconscious communication with the Count and none by the Count. That pretty well means there wasn’t or the author would surely indicate when by some oddness of situation between them. She doesn’t quite have the hang of telepathy or of the unconscious, thus her invoking of Eros. ‘Oh great!’ I wrote in the margin when Tim receives a letter that precipitates him into action. ‘Tim really knew in coming to France he had decided to see Gertrude.’ (That’s her name. Murdoch has a thing about Hamlet though it’d be stretching it to think Tim is.) ‘It was just that the decision was so awful it had to be taken in two halves, one conscious and one unconscious.’ I like that though the author puts the conscious half first. ‘But now he was here, he knew he had to...’ like me going to Bonser Rd. Once there, I rationalise I might as well knock on Rich’s door and face whatever comes. ‘Oh no!’ I wrote in the margin beside ‘He decided to turn to the right and go to the canal. ‘Oh no!’ as ‘Tim slipped head first into the stream.’ ‘No!’ at ‘He was fully conscious he was about to die.’ Finally Murdoch has done it for me; I was so moved my head prickled. You can’t say better than that. ‘Eheu fugaces....’ – Alas fleeting.... – is a quote from Horace as are the others. Twice Hannibal’s failure to march on Rome is referred to. He may not have had enough men for a siege but he should have risked it after his colossal victory at Cannae and in all probability would have taken a demoralised city. The introducer thinks the denial of self by the likes of nuns and soldiers effects a transcendence that gives a sense of eternity and infinity in our mortal life. I have to disagree with that. You get it when your unconscious is thinking infinitely fast in communication with another, if it can that is.

  • Bianca Borandă
    2019-05-19 15:16

    It starts slow, but then you get so intimate with the characters that you don't want to let the book down until you're done with it. There is a lot of drama in this book which manages to showcase how weak people are in the face of strong emotion. I was particularly a fan of the dialogue through which Murdoch manages to transcend the reader to the heat of the action, and less a fan of her prose, where she aimed at describing the surroundings thoroughly - which I did not find necessary. Has this book been made into a movie yet? Certainly a befitting script for a picture.

  • Lonesome
    2019-05-26 20:23

    I dont usually like iris murdoch , she has some interesting ideas here and there but her books are all the same and the plots are usually muddled , this one however is pretty entertaining even though the most interesting character ( the ex nun ) does not get enough action .

  • Lisa Dale
    2019-05-15 19:07

    fini Aug 2017

  • Simon Mcleish
    2019-04-28 14:28

    Originally published on my blog here in April 2005.The Sea, the Sea is one of my favourite Murdoch novels and one of her most famous; its follow-up is much less well known. It doesn't quite equal its predecessor, but it is well worth reading, more so than her later novels.Nuns and Soldiers begins on a deathbed; Guy Openshaw tells his wife that she should marry again. She is reluctant to do this, feeling that it would be a betrayal, but then, quite soon after Guy's death, Gertrude falls unexpectedly in love with a much younger man, a poverty stricken painter. This horrifies her friends, partly for snobbish reqasons and partly because they assume that Tim Reede is really after Gertrude's money. When they discover that Tim had hidden from Gertrude the fact that he was already in a long term (if informal) relationship when he met her, they feel that their suspicions have been confirmed. Murdoch makes it clear that he really did fall for Gertrude and that he hid the relationship from pure embarrassment, but that is not how it looks to Gertrude's friends or (eventually) to Gertrude, and succeeds in making everybody miserable.So why the rather strange title? There is a literal nun in the story, Gertrude's friend Anne, who has recently left an enclosed order after losing her faith. On the other hand, there are no real soldiers. The distinction seems to be more between passive and active characters, with nuns and soldiers being traditional archetypes of each. Most characters in this novel move from one to the other end of the spectrum (and back again), and the reader is also shown that the characters' self perception does not always match their position.Nuns and Soldiers is not a happy novel, but it is a good one. It doesn't have quite the impact of The Sea, The Sea, possibly because it starts with a death bed scene and possibly because a fair amount of philosophical discussion is presented in the early chapters: there are both emotional and intellectual hurdles to get over before a reader can get into the story itself. The transformation of Tim Reede's character throughout the novel is interesting, but on the other hand some of the less characters are either very ordinary or have odd things done to them by the author. The Polish man nicknamed "the Count" is an example; Murdoch seems to vacillate about just how important a part he should play. (This is actually quite clever, as real relationships ebb and flow in ways normally drastically simplified in fiction.) Though it is fairly hard work on the conceptual level, Nuns and Soldies is made accessible by Murdoch's style, which keeps the story flowing along. What I particularly like about the novel are the scenes when characters discuss others behind their backs, which may be incidental to the plot but which say a lot about their relationships and perceptions of each other.

  • Julieta Paradiso
    2019-05-05 17:02

    Certainly, a gripping story, with its typical Murdochian twists and turns; its intriguing, romantic, intertwined, magical, and intellectual plot that make it the more entertaining and exciting. For Murdoch’s books are unforgiving, just like their creator: you either love them or hate them, no shades of grey in between. What can one say after reading Nuns and Soldiers—a novel humming (or rather screaming) with ideas that become larger than the characters themselves— that hasn’t been said of her other works? Personally, I feel inclined to sum this one up by simply saying, “We, human beings, are outstanding at deceiving ourselves and deceiving others.” For, in the end, faced with our own non-existence, we don’t have too many options other than finding whatever works for us. To avoid seeing the void, the nothingness at the end of the tunnel of our lives, some will embark on an existential quest (truth, goodness, virtue, authenticity), while others will simply give up on this quest and settle for the mediocre. Who can blame them? After all, we're in this world knowing that we're nobody and nothing but trying after all to enjoy it.

  • Ali
    2019-04-28 18:10

    Nuns and Soldiers is the latest book to be tackled by us Murdoch a monthians - (or every other monthians as we are now). I enjoyed it very much, however it doesn't quite have the impact and scope of The Sea, the sea, which we last read. A good many familiar Murdoch themes are present in this novel, goodness, religion, philosophy among them, there are some complicated relationships and motivations among the characters. What is fascinating with IM is how often those characters who you imagine would be "good" aren't - and those who society may see as "bad" or at least as deeply flawed are in fact "good" I must say there weren't many characters I warmed to in this - infact I disliked all of them at some stage - except maybe Gertrude - and she irritated me a bit.

  • Daniel Polansky
    2019-05-20 14:16

    So Iris Murdoch is a very well-regarded novelist, and I was excited to try her out, and she's got a pretty big oeuvre, and this isn't one of the more famous ones, and maybe I would have been better off starting somewhere else. Because this is kind of a crap book, I don't know what else to say. It's sappy and melodramatic but also really boring. There's a ton of description of how the characters are feeling, just page after page of exposition. The prose is not horrid, but it's not particularly noteworthy. Honestly I struggled to finish it. I'll give her another shot down the road, maybe this just wasn't for me.

  • Faith Bradham
    2019-05-12 16:24

    Ahhh, I didn't really like this one. I don't know why I'm even giving it 3 stars ... maybe because I feel like it should deserve 3 stars but I'm too uncharitable to give it that many? Whatever. The main reason I didn't like Nuns and Soldiers was that I hated the ending. Ugh, what a horrible ending. It made me hate everyone; I ended up not liking any of the characters ... except maybe Manfred, which is so weird, because I didn't like him at all until the end. Even the Count lost his charm for me. Idiot.p.s. I kept wishing that this was set 30 or 40 years back, instead of in the 70's.

  • Christopherch
    2019-05-11 22:18

    Lacks a convincing intellectual core crucial to her large, later works and untethered from a strong central theme, drifts into rambling melodrama. Very well written and cleverly structured melodrama and certainly entertaining, but ultimately, barren, unsatisfactory. Redeeming quote:We are all the judges and the judged, victims of the casual malice and fantasy of others, and ready sources of fantasy and malice in our turn. And if we are sometimes accused of sins of which we are innocent, are there not also other sins of which we are guilty and of which the world knows nothing?

  • Salvatore
    2019-05-12 21:12

    More methodical and plodding than usual Murdoch fare. But the philosophical discussions and the master/puppet relations are so well worked out and so beautifully and slowly revealed that they're actually a tad shocking. Plus for a very realist and secular novel this one makes an interesting case for religion or spirituality.Extra points for the bitchy conversation at the end between two tertiary characters that brought me back to the Midsummer Night's Dream element of my favourite Murdoch novel, A Fairly Honourable Defeat.

  • Pam Strachan
    2019-04-28 22:05

    I don't know why I have never read iris Murdoch, but somehow she never appealed. I found this book extrodinary. Sometimes breathtaking, sometimes gripping, sometimes trivial and sometimes tedious. But always unpredictable. Sometimes I loved the character's, sometimes I found them irritating. Just like real-life. I understand and share other reviewers confusion. Nevertheless, I am really glad to have read this book and will certainly read more from Iris Murdoch.

  • Allison P
    2019-05-17 19:20

    Interestingly written. The characters' motives were intriguing. The plot line was unique. I got bogged down by the author's penchant for backtracking, however. I am a very easily distracted reader. So I had a hard time following the lines of thought, and kept looking back to see if I had missed something, but I hadn't.

  • Johanna
    2019-05-22 14:01

    It is clearly the year of Iris Murdoch in my fiction reading. I really liked this book. I'm realising I enjoy reading Murdoch because her novels rattle along like a soap-opera peopled by extremely intelligent/interesting/attractive characters with a generally very human and intriguing tale. However you always come away with a greater understanding of the human condition.

  • Emily
    2019-05-22 21:07

    Rich, drawn out, evocative. I wouldn't have read this had not Murdoch been so heavily recommended at the Catholic university where I attended graduate school. I probably won't read more of her until I'm older, but I was glad to sink into this a bit. Themes of water, mysticism, nature and social structure spoke to me.

  • Geoff
    2019-05-06 16:06

    I'd read plenty of Murdoch books before but this one was a little slow to get going but after a chapter or so I really couldn't put it down. The all-pervasive spectre of the dying husband and the other eccentric characters make it especially memorable and Nuns and Soldiers is now one of my favourite novels of Murdochs. It may even have to be in my 'desert island books' list!

  • David
    2019-05-01 15:16

    Took me a few try's to start this one, but Iris did not disappoint. Starting with a scene what I thought at first was in a hospital, but actually a Winter's evening at Guy's Home.Guy not having long to live starts off the read with philosophical meanderings, but soon moves quickly into the story of many loves in many directions.

  • Lauren Albert
    2019-05-03 21:23

    Like another reviewer said, it is easy for Murdoch's books to blend together. I was thinking about it last night--a Murdoch novel is a thinking person's melodrama. But the melodrama can start to wear on one after reading a lot of her books. I still think that everyone should give her books a try--I loved them all the first time I read them 20 years ago. Perhaps I have just overdosed?