I first read some of Iris Murdoch's books as set texts when I was at university. She was ,and I suppose still is, much admired by our lecturers.I must admit I wasn't very fond of the books we had to read (like the first set one 'the bell')but however I still wanted to read more and quite by chance, in a bookshop more than 20 years ago, I picked 'a word child'.This is the one I have always loved and admired above all others and probably for all the wrong reasons, namely that the story is very interesting, with a little of a thriller element in it, the characters touching, complex and funny, the plot easy to follow.... Well all in all it wasn't exactly a typical , intellectual, high-brow Murdoch but a very accessible one.
Hilary, highly intelligent,flawed and a complete control freak, wastes his talent as a mediocre civil servant. His work colleagues make fun of him (I really enjoyed the exchanges he has with them)and his few friends have access to him on set days of the week. He has a sister whom he cherishes but whose life is made rather miserable by the fact that it has to be led according to his rules and a subordinate he despises who is in love with her and too much in awe of Hilary to ever hope to deserve her one day.Hilary 's highly ordered life is put in jeopardy one day when he learns a former acquaintance and a man he has wronged ,Gunther, is to become his boss. Hilary would rather flee than have to face him but Gunther's second wife lady Kitty has other plans. She would prefer that the two of them should be able to get reconciled and to get on with their lives... But her interfering will have tragic consequences for all of them.