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Iris: A memoir of Iris Murdoch [Paperback]

John Bayley
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Sep 1999

John Bayley's account of his long and loving marriage to the great novelist Iris Murdoch takes us on a journey, from their love affair's comically inauspicious beginnings in the Oxford of the early fifties (Bayley courted Iris on account of her unchallenging plain looks and their first date consisted of a revolting dinner followed by a disastrous dance when Iris sprained her ankle) to its slow and painful closure when the onset of Alzheimer's more than forty years later, which should be devastating. Yet as Bayley charts the gradual dissolution of Iris's remarkable intellect side by side with the detail of their gloriously eccentric and profoundly satisfying life together, what emerges is the complex portrait of an enigmatic and brilliant woman and of a marriage of quite extraordinary, unforced happiness, and some remarkable insight into the richly mysterious symbolism of Iris Murdoch's novels.

Wry, intelligent, and unexpectedly hilarious, IRIS is an unforgettable inquiry into the nature of love and identity and a uniquely moving articulation of loss.

Product details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (9 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349112150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349112152
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 402,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

"Like being chained to a corpse, isn't it?"
This is a memoir, not a biography, with obvious resonance. John Bayley, former Professor of English at Oxford, and Iris Murdoch, philosopher and author, have been married for more than 45 years. She has shown the degenerative effects of Alzheimer's Disease for the last four years. The words quoted above were not, needless to say, his. He chronicles a shared experience that can no longer be shared except with those outside of it, and as such is vital for him as he copes, rather than grieves. He purposefully blurs the boundaries of past and present as he describes the marriage of two brilliant intellectuals, determinedly unworldly and collegiate, mixing wine and water (they are serial dippers) throughout Europe as they serenely move "closer and closer apart." When Iris's intellect deteriorates her dependency inevitably increases, and they are "sailing into the dark" (her words) until the end of the book, when Bayley contends that the voyage is over, and they have both arrived somewhere. It is the spiritual answer to her perpetual question: "When are we going?", and provides a quietly uplifting resolution. John Bayley has written a magnificent paean to their love. Without underplaying the realities of living with someone with Alzheimer's, he writes in a moving and dignified way, without sentimentality, of a woman rather than a condition, who is still every bit his wife, if even more his dependent. He believes that their marriage released the child in Iris; now they watch Teletubbies together, wordlessly secure. --David Vincent


This is the greatest love story of our age. Incomparable (OBSERVER)

A beautiful testament of love (IRISH TIMES)

A joyous paean to his beloved... This is a brave and poignant portrait of a very English marriage between a brilliant couple...the heartbreaks here recoreded are balanced against the joys of a lifetime's companionship with a partner who has clearly never ceased to be an object of adoration. (THE TIMES)

A unique glimpse into the alchemy of marriage ... a work of art (Victoria Glendinning, DAILY TELEGRAPH)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book 16 Jun 2001
By A Customer
I didn't read many books of Iris Murdoch and it wasn't because of her, that I read John Bayley's book. I discovered this book by chance.
It is by far the best book I read for a very long time. John Bayley writes about his life with Iris Murdoch, who died of Alzheimer disease. Therefore his life with Iris has not been very easy before her death.
In ordinary memoirs or autobiographies the authors tend to distinguish their experiences in good or bad (lucky or unlucky) ones. And the majority will consider the same as good or bad.
John Bayley on the other hand looks at his life totally from his own point of view. He has no fix, preconceived opinions of what is good (lucky) or bad (unlucky). Every experience can be pleasant or unpleasant. He has a wholly unprejudiced way of looking at life.
Since reading this book I try to look at my life in the same way as John Bayley. This book has given me a lot, much more than any non-fiction book about how to lead a better life.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable uplifting read 1 Oct 2002
By A Customer
I was bought this book and only read it to be polite. However it was actually one of the best books I've read in 2 years. I've never read any Iris Murdoch books but am interested in doing so now. It is written in a very gentle relaxing manner but is quite compulsive. This couple have led a very unusual life together - at times hilariously eccentric. I wouldn't have chosen to read about somebody intelligent dying of Alzheimers as it would have seemed a little depressing however the book is very cheerful and uplifting.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A most unlikely love story 19 Nov 2000
Format:Audio Cassette
An insight into the life,and illness of a famous philospher and a writer.A most unusual life. John Bayley a professor of English himself and madly in love with this most un-conventional lady,who was his wife. Writing about their marriage he says;"Cluless as I was I did know by then that Iris had several lovers,often apparently at the same time.I also intuted that she gave her favours out of admiration and respect.Men who werelike Gods for her,were also for her erotic beings,but sex was something she regarded as rather marginal ,not an end in itself." et throughout their life together and through the long and trying years when he nursed her through her terminal illness of Althziemers disease. If one needs to restore ones faith in human nature and the love and the goodness it is capable of ,this is the book to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 28 Jun 2014
By Belinda
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An interesting look into Iris's life through John's eyes. I think he has been very kind in some places going by the letters I have read of Iris's. Yet in many ways immensely honest. A brave account of their love.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Study related 10 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lovely love story, our tutor kept referring to this book when I was doing my dementia course in Uni it really is quite thought provoking of what true love can really survive!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Iris 10 May 2011
A wonderful and articulate love story which makes you think. Life is never as you imagined, you just need to make the most of it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving account of the impact of Alzheimer's 21 Dec 1998
By A Customer
John Bayley, distinguished academic and critic, has been married to Dame Iris Murdoch, novelist and philosopher, for more than forty years. This book is not a formal biography, but a thoughtful and moving account of a long love affair and the impact on it of Alzheimer's disease. It is written with great tenderness, but leaves you with no illusions about the devestating impact this condition has made on the mind of this great novelist. One of the best things I have read all year.
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