Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Reading Assignment: The Green Knight

I have been slowly reading my way through Iris Murdoch.  It has taken me eight years and I have now read almost all of her novels.  The only one outstanding is Jackson's Dilemma. Understanding that Iris Murdoch was a literary powerhouse, one expects her novels to be very serious and difficult, but they are surprisingly sensual.  Her characters are usually well-off, well-educated Londoners who live in exquisite houses, which Murdoch describes in tantalizing detail.  If I could pick any house in literature to live in, it would probably be one from an Iris Murdoch novel and a top contender would be Louise's house in The Green Knight.  She also describes the clothes that her characters wear, which are always unique and stylish.

Other common elements to an Iris Murdoch novel:  a charismatic male character who has an almost messianic influence on the others in the novel, a weaker character who serves as an acolyte, a middle-aged, still attractive motherly figure, a young girl or two, and a dog.  There is always a dog.  Iris Murdoch must have been a great dog lover and she gives the dogs in her novels as much personality as some of the humans, and reading about her dogs is always a great pleasure.

The Green Knight has all of these elements.  On a dark night in a deserted area, Lucas kills a man who accosts him.  His brother Clement is the only witness, and he is so drunk he can hardly remember the circumstances.  Meanwhile, their widowed friend Louise, who lives with her three lovely young daughters, notices a man with a green umbrella lurking outside their house every night. The dog in this story is Anax, a heartbroken creature who has been sent to live with Louise and her daughters because his owner wants to be a monk.  There's a wonderful scene, told from Anax's perspective, when he runs away in search of his old owner.  And so you are sucked into an absorbing story that touches on fantasy, but holds back enough to be believable.

The Green Knight is witty and intelligent and suspenseful at times, with a strong plot that holds your interest.

Any other Iris Murdoch fans out there?


  1. I've only read one by her, ages ago, but you've spiked my interest.

  2. I read one or two of her books years ago, and this one sounds of interest to me.