Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday Reading Assignment: A Word Child

Two weeks ago, I said that I was in a happy place with the books I was reading.  One of those books was The Virginians, last week's assignment, and the other was A Word Child by Iris Murdoch.  I've featured Murdoch before, and for good reason.  She's one of the best English writers of the twentieth century.  While everything I've read by Iris Murdoch has been good, I liked some of her books better than others and A Word Child falls into this category.

The "child" of A Word Child is Hilary Burde, a man in his forties whose gift for languages enabled him to escape his unhappy childhood (illegitimate, poor, sent to an orphanage after his mother's death) and go to Oxford.  A tragic event ruins a potentially brilliant career, and when we are introduced to him, he's a low-level civil servant in a drab office which is brightened only by the glimpse of Big Ben he can see from the window.

The Amazon customer reviewers describe Hilary Burde as an unlikeable loser, but I think he's a sympathetic character and almost every female character in the book falls in love with him, so he must have something going on. I think I was a little bit in love with him myself.  Still, sometimes his actions are questionable.  The central conflict is that the man involved in Burde's life-ruining tragedy has been assigned as an upper level manager of their department.  What follows is at times suspenseful, but what I really loved about this book is Murdoch's ability in creating this character.


  1. You write so passionately that I'll give this one a go.

    Mind you, if he does turn out to be complete loser, I will return and have my revenge.