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A Severed Head [Unknown Binding]

3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B003PCCKR6
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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'YOU'RE sure she doesn't know,' said Georgie. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adultery, incest & Samurai swords... 19 Aug 2005
This is an odd, quirky book which isn't your usual Iris Murdoch: no near-drownings, nature mysticism or accidents involving machines, and only six characters: three men and three women, who change partners regularly in the manner of a Restoration comedy, or a Noel Coward play, until they've pretty much exhausted all the possible combinations. It's a witty book, but I wouldn't agree with the cover blurb which describes it as a "comic novel". Although the bed-hopping is entertaining for the reader, from the point of view of the characters themselves the whole thing is deadly serious. Indeed, I think this is one of the messages Murdoch is trying to get across: life can be painful and farcical at the same time...
Wine merchant Martin Lynch-Gibbon is initially shocked to discover his wife Antonia is sleeping with her psychiatrist, Palmer Anderson. However, he himself is having an affair with a young student, and decides to do the civilised thing and give his tacit approval to his wife's relationship with Palmer, for the sake of an easy life all round. This cozy arrangement is rudely interrupted when Palmer's half-sister, Honor Klein, arrives on the scene: she accuses Martin of cowardice, infuriating him and resulting in a full-blown punch-up between Honor & Martin (in which Honor gives as good as she gets...) Things get even more complicated when Martin's brother Alexander reveals that he has also had an affair with Antonia; and when Martin suddenly realises that he is in love with Honor. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and Martin (and the reader) have a huge shock in store.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight, but avoid the introduction 1 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a delight, but I felt moved to post a review to warn people not to read the introduction by Miranda Seymour before reading the novel, because it gives away many of the important plot developments. Half the fun of the novel comes from some of the unexpected events, so do read the introduction afterwards rather than before. Luckily this is what I did, so it didn't spoil anything.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iris Murdoch A Severed Head 24 Aug 2005
By A Customer
This book was given to me to read by my best friend from school. It was the first Iris Murdoch book I have ever read. Well.... what a delight just when you think you have a grip on what is happening it all changes. Since reading it I had to start reading more of her books. This book is wonderful and surprising. A true delight!
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By bobbygw
In A Severed Head, Martin Lynch-Gibbon, established wine merchant, and happily dedicated two-timing sophisticate (he has been betraying his wife, Antonia, by having an affair for some time with Georgie, a friend, and LSE lecturer), tells you the story of the collapse of his marriage, his wife's affair with no less than two men (one of which, with the manipulative, obnoxiously patronising, slimy psychoanalyst, Palmer Anderson, began even before Martin's marriage with Antonia; the other with Martin's sculptor brother, Alexander) and his stormy entanglement - and eventual (well, potential) resurrection, with the devilish, deeply disturbing brilliant academic Honor Klein (sister to Palmer).

It is beautifully written, and compellingly so from the viewpoint of Martin's narration. The intelligence of the author, and her deft, brilliant drawings of her characters - she can do men and women with equal aplomb, by which I mean their psychology, self-deceptions, quirks, temperaments and dialogue - are always powerfully evoked, even - perhaps, especially - when their natures are most troubling.

Martin clearly finds himself falling into an almighty mess. Having thought he was the one in control of his life, it becomes clear he is the more easily duped - and cuckolded, while deceiving himself and others (as do the other characters). Murdoch understands the vicissitudes and muddle, confusion and self-deception of what it can often mean to be human.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Change Partners and Dance 17 April 2012
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"A Severed Head," (1961), is the fifth novel from Dublin-born, Anglo-Irish Dame Iris Murdoch, British writer, Oxford university don, and highly praised, professional, prolific novelist. She produced 26 novels in 40 years, and wrote the last while suffering from Alzheimers, as viewers of Richard Eyre's film Iris [DVD](2001) will know. That film based on her husband John Bayley's memoirs of life with the philosopher/poet/lecturer/novelist starred Kate Winslet as the young writer and Judi Dench as the older. Murdoch was known for novels that considered political and social questions, sexual relationships, morality, the unconscious, good and evil. And the author's characters seemed all to drink and smoke heavily. At any rate, while Murdoch was in her prime, she was known as a perfectionist who would not allow editors to change her texts. Her first published novel, Under The Net (Vintage Classics), was selected in 2001 by the editorial board as one of Modern Library's 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1976, and a Dame Commander of the Order in 1987. The Times (London) named Murdoch to their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945" in 2008.

Many critics consider SEVERED HEAD, to be the lightest, most entertaining, and most accessible of Murdoch's novels: it unspools as an elegant minuet in which nimble-footed people continuously change partners and dance.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange
This started out well with a pleasing wave of schadenfreude washing over me when adulterer Martin learns that his wife is having an affair with his best friend. Read more
Published on 21 Feb 2012 by Swizzlestick
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent, self-congratulatory and dull
Very rich middle-aged people, all apparently with firsts from Oxford, play around with each other and then implore the deceived partners to stick around and be loving friends. Read more
Published on 9 Nov 2011 by Nick Macfie
4.0 out of 5 stars love stories, like musical chairs - in a washing machine
This is an unusual and enjoyable novel, full of struggling (largely unsympathetic) characters, delicious ironies, and understated mysteries that ply the readers' imagination even... Read more
Published on 24 May 2011 by rob crawford
2.0 out of 5 stars A Waste of Time
what a waste of time.

I have read and enjoyed Iris Murdoch's The Bell The Bell (Vintage Classics) and ADORED the incomparable The Sea, The Sea. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2010 by S. Murphy
3.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating and overrated.
I must say that `A Severed Head' is one of the most frustrating books I've ever read. I found the characters to be starchy, unrealistically dramatic (especially given their... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2007 by Mr. A. Farrer
4.0 out of 5 stars A Severed Head
do yourself a favour, and don't read James whatshisname at the start of this list of reviews. What a pretensious twerp!
Published on 28 Jun 2004 by Simon Marsh
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit strong for the Chardonnay Generation?
well this is Murdoch's fifth novel, not her first, and I can only assume that it may be a bit strong for you Bridget Jones afficianados. Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2003 by j.de turberville
4.0 out of 5 stars It's just the beginning...
It's visible that it's Murdoch's first novel. The plot is not fully developed and language is not as rich as in her later works. Read more
Published on 14 Aug 2002
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