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A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 25 Apr 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (25 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099285339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099285335
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The most important novelist writing in my time" (A.S. Byatt)

"A distinguished novelist of a very rare kind" (Kingsley Amis)

"Of all the novelists that have made their bow since the war she seems to me to be the most remarkable-behind her books one feels a power of intellect quite exceptional in a novelist" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

The most important novelist writing in my time A. S. Byatt

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By "parlinais" on 20 July 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel transfixed me from start to finish! The complex and delicately interwoven plot moves smoothly through philosophical insights, emotional turmoil and, despite the dark overtones of the story, it contains some farcical humour which made me laugh out loud. The story works on so many levels that you'll probably want to read it several times to grasp its many implications - the first time I read it I was so captivated by the charisma of the characters (ice-cold Julius, aloof Axel and muddled Morgan in particular) that the philosophy pretty much passed me by, but it's well worth digging into this book several times; I keep finding new things to think about on each re-read. Despite the fact that there are some very cynical messages put over by the plot, it manages not to become depressing, and because there are several layers of characters, the overall atmosphere is one of bitter-sweetness, which satisfies in several different ways, not just the obvious. If you're looking for a one-dimensional, linear storyline, this is certainly not for you, but there are enough shocks along the way to keep most people turning the pages. As well as all this, the setting of the book is fantastic - there's a really atmospheric feeling of summer which creates the perfect backdrop for the increasing madnesses and deceptions which take place. It's done so well that the depths of cruelty shown by the characters at times completely drew me in, and my sympathies ended up in some very surprising places! The characters are anything but ordinary, yet this didn't stop me identifying with them. Overall, I couldn't recommend this book more!Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Room for a View VINE VOICE on 22 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
The story begins with the happily married Rupert and Hilda celebrating their wedding anniversary, supping champagne and enjoying their recently installed swimming pool. They are joined by the hilarious, although somewhat less contented couple Axel and Simon. But is this suburban idyll merely an elaborate facade? Iris proceeds to rip apart their illusion of love and happiness, planting the mischievous Julius and the unstable Morgan (his ex lover) in their midst. Added to this intricate maze of human emotion is Morgan's estranged husband, Tallis, who lives with his caustic father and Hilda and Rupert's nihilistic son, in a beautifully realised London hovel. The plot thickens with intrigue, forced falsehoods and manipulated misunderstandings, resulting in a cascade of humour and heart wrenching sadness: the remarkable birthday dinner and the pink teddy bear incident and the perils of a back garden pool. Ultimately the story centres on the pursuit of 'goodness' and the desire for humans to love and be loved. And Iris excels with these themes for she shows that vanity is ultimately the insurmountable obstacle to perfect happiness. Best we understand our limitations and be honest with our failings. As Laclos said vanity and happiness don't mix! A truely wonderful tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A.E Cattley on 14 July 2013
Format: Paperback
I've read many of Iris Murdoch's novels, and I have to say that this is one of my favourites (on a par with 'The Bell'). It contains a host of typical Murdoch characters (the wayward and quite frankly bonkers woman, the homosexual couple, the intellectuals) but is in parts ruder and more coarse than various of her other books. I frequently found myself with an overwhelming urge to interrupt whoever else was in the room in order to read sections aloud; parts are pretty amusing.

As with some of her other novels, there are bits which seem odd or rather implausible. Hardened Murdoch fans should not be put off! If you haven't read any Murdoch before, this may not be the place to start (I would recommend 'The Bell', personally) but having said that, the writing is absolutely incredible, so rich and original, and I'm sure you'd enjoy it regardless. It is not a short novel, but there is not necessarily a positive correlation between the number of pages and time taken to complete - I tore through it simply because it's so unbelievably engrossing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Troy Beal on 4 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
I first read this book over 30 years ago at university, and it remains one of my favourite Iris Murdoch novels.
Many of her 'normal' themes are there- appearance, deception, manipulation, eccentricity, characters who never seem to go to work.
Was life like this in the 1970s?
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By housewifelet on 25 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is gripping. It has a great plot and works on many levels. I read it as a comment on the Third Reich and how people can be manipulated very easily to their detriment and to those around them, doing things that they cannot morally justify.A great book.
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By Bob J on 25 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris doing her character study once more: attacking the issue of what constitutes evil. Her mystic representation fascinating: why do the insects quieten when Julius is present?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As eloquent as expected and a story that takes you on a personal journey through your emotions. High expectations from Iris and she never let's me down.
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