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The Bell [Paperback]

Iris Murdoch , A S Byatt
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
Price: £6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

5 Feb 2004


Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to live with her husband in a a lay community encamped outside Imber Abbey, home to a mysterious enclosed order of nuns. Watched over by its devout director and the discreet authority of the wise old Abbess, Imber Court is a haven for lost souls seeking tranquility. But then the lost Abbey bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered, and hidden truths and desires are forced into the light.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (5 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099470489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099470489
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Her novels evoked beautifully the atmosphere of the country gardens (The Bell, 1958) or the mysterious London streets (The Time of the Angels, 1968) in which they were set, with their characters engaged in intriguing love relationships, from the totally innocent to the wholly weird." (The Times)

"Iris Murdoch really knows how to write, can tell a story, delineate a character, catch an atmosphere with deadly accuracy" (John Betjeman)

"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)

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

"A tragi-comic masterpiece... A magnificent novel" (Susan Hill The Lady)

Book Description

Iris Murdoch's funny and sad novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty.

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First Sentence
DORA GREENFIELD LEFT HER HUSBAND because she was afraid of him. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As a newcomer to Murdoch (despite the fact that our house is full of her books) I thought I'd pick a random one off the shelf. It would seem that fate had decreed me to pick 'The Bell'. It sounded ok from the blurb and I threw it in my bag before a train journey that I was to take later that day. I always read on the train but this time it was different. I was literally so absorbed that I didn't notice that we had been delayed for an hour along the way. It's hard to begin to describe what captivated me in my first experience with Iris Murdoch's writing. For a start it was interesting from the first page. The characters were restless and unsatisfied. They'd make up their mind that they were adamantly not going to do something and then in the next sentence do exactly what they had forbidden themselves. Most importantly they were real. Murdoch seemed to have her psychology down to such perfection. Anything that was said or done by her characters whether satisfying or annoying was thoroughly easy to comprehend. I have to say that I'm still amazed at her finesse in capturing the most specific of human foibles. But this is just character. The plot of 'The Bell' is magnificent in its sinister glory. The story is relatively simple but is spiked with a growing sense of unease and malice that ticks away like a timebomb waiting to explode. However this atmosphere is mellowed by the presence of innocence and untainted youth. I do not want to go into the finer points of the narrative as they have to be seen within the context of the novel but I can assure you that in no way does the story disappoint.
Iris Murdoch sadly suffered a great decline with the onset of Alzheimer's disease. However at the height of her powers she was one of Britain's greatest writers.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but somewhat dated 4 Jun 2001
By A Customer
I had always been afraid of reading Iris Murdoch novels, imagining that an Oxford philosopher's fiction would be far too high-brow for me. However - I was wrong, and I would recommend this book as a good starting point for others who have yet to taste the delights of her work.

The Amazon review is a fair summary of the plot - the interest lies in watching how a newly-formed community, where the members have different levels of commitment, deal with challenges. I felt that Murdoch's sympathies lay with those who were somewhat outside the boundaries of the community, and I think she portrayed them beautifully.

The chief note of caution I would insert, however, is that the book is of its time (1958, I think - the year after the Wolfenden report recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales), and I was left wondering how Murdoch would have treated her subject in 2001. But perhaps the stimulus to thought was valuable in itself!

I hope others are also tempted to try reading this novel - I imagine that anyone who has enjoyed Muriel Spark, for example, would also enjoy this author.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strikes a chord (sorry...) 19 Oct 2007
By Simon4
Here is a book, almost fifty years old, that feels as fresh and urgent as the best contemporary fiction.

It is full of shocks. The first is the care and precision with which it is written; and the second is that it treats seriously - indeed profoundly - issues of faith, something from which recent novels, like society, tend to shy away.

The novel begins as a comedy of manners, centring upon young, flighty Dora Greenslade and her unpropitious marriage to an academic some years her senior. She is a young woman at sea in a society in a state of flux. Another shock of the novel is the perspicacity with which Murdoch locates and pre-empts the social and political changes that the Sixties will bring about. She is at once liberal in her empathy for different people - one hesitates to call them characters, so vividly do they leap from the page - whilst subjecting them to harsh scrutiny. Like those people in life whom we really know, Murdoch's characters are more real, more human and therefore more possible to love for our understanding of their virtues in spite and because of their faults.

Once located to Imber Court, a newly founded lay community that borders upon an abbey of nuns, the plot really begins to take hold. In some senses, Imber is Edenic, an earthly paradise; unfortunately, as we know, Paradise is rent asunder by earthly knowledge, specifically in the form of female sexuality. And thus another shock is how the novel moves from its slightly satirical gothic tone (think Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey) to very 'real' (by which I think I mean contemporary) concerns with love in its erotic and platonic (and competing) forms.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis 17 Oct 2008
By Mary_10
A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an enclosed order of nuns. A new bell is being installed and then the old bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to her husband,. Michael Meade, leader of the community, is confronted by Nick Fawley, with whom he had disastrous homosexual relations, while the wise old Abbess watches and prays and excercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved, whatever that may mean..... Iris Murdoch's funny and sad novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty..... [From the back cover]
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A captivating page turner
Great novel about religion and sex, among other things.
Published 4 days ago by LadyG'Diver
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
reading it at the moment will be buying more books by iris murdock
Published 9 days ago by geoffrey woodward
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully composed narrative featuring an array of widely...
A wonderfully composed narrative featuring an array of widely disparate characters.......typically Murdoch. An intriguing storyline right to the end. Marvellous.
Published 11 days ago by A. F. Wolff
2.0 out of 5 stars Ok
I should have read it 40 years ago. Perhaps then it would have had more entertainment value but it was too old fashioned now.
Published 1 month ago by elaine griffiths
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Really good read a recommendation for anyone... A fascinating story and a fascinating author... A compelling fiction... Really very good
Published 4 months ago by peejay
5.0 out of 5 stars Havar
An old friend came back to me. I had this book some years ago and foolishly lend it out to never return. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Havar
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bell......
I first read this book 25 years ago for A Level English Lit and seemed to remember enjoying it so it was for mainly nostalgic reasons that I put it on my Kindle! Read more
Published 19 months ago by Louise Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars top bedtime read
i was quite a young 20 when i read this and now 50 it still comes back to me as one of the more memorable novels i have read (i have read lots). Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2012 by Mr. Anthony J. Hume
3.0 out of 5 stars The Introspection
This is above all a very English book of its time. Emotions are buttoned up and characters behave like cardboard cutouts rather than flesh and blood. Read more
Published on 22 Dec 2011 by marionq
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine novel about personal morality, sexuality and religion
This book focuses on a small lay religious community and the nunnery to which it is attached. The action revolves around the nunnery's plan to install a new bell to replace one... Read more
Published on 25 Sep 2011 by James
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