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Under The Net (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Iris Murdoch , Kiernan Ryan
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

24 Jan 2002 Vintage Classics
Iris Murdoch's first novel is set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a drifting, clever, likeable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging on his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures. Jake is captivated by a majestic philosopher, Hugo Belfounder, whose profound and inconclusive reflections give the book its title - under the net of language.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (24 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099429071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099429074
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Under the Net announces the emergence of a brilliant talent " (Times Literary Supplement)

"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 dazzling story, light and comic in touch" (The Times)

"Iris Murdoch has imposed her alternative world on us as surely as Christopher Columbus or Graham Greene" (Sunday Times)

"This is a comedy with that touch of ferocity about it which makes for excitement" (Elizabeth Jane Howard)

Book Description

The debut novel from one of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's Becoming of Being? 29 Jan 2001
By A Customer
I audibly laughed through half the scenes of this amazing first novel. It is a great thing to make someone laugh out loud while reading and this book did it continually. Whether it be the point where Jake Donaghue sits outside Sadie's flat listening to the "plot" against him with the neighbours poking him to see what he'll do or the superhero stunts of Jake and Hugo at the Roman set saving Lefty. I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the clever wit of the situation. But, what is amazing is that behind all of this there are deep philosophical thoughts at work, but the spaciousness of these thoughts never intrude upon the enjoyability of the story. It is similar in that way to Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, but the comedy in this is up a few notches more. The story is deeply routed in London (with a side-trip to Paris) and this location no doubt gives all the more joy to readers familiar to the area with its deep descriptions of particular sections and jabs at the reputations of others. Yet, this too did not detract from the book's enjoyability because of the eloquence of her descriptions. "When caught unawares," Jake reflects, "I usually tell the truth, and what's duller that that." The book is one long reflection and so, according to this line, we are thenceforth suspicious of all we are told. Many points of his memory are probably deeply exaggerated and this would explain some of the all too convenient coincidences. But, who cares? It's a good, entertaining story. Ultimately, Murdoch is presenting a rather ideal view of the independent will of the free spirit. Jake's hope is neatly set forth at the end. But the ideals of living in regards to work and love, wealth and fame seem to be given a manageable frame in which to work in. Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful comedy in fifties London 4 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This is existential slapstick comedy. 'Life will drag you which ever way fate decrees,' it seems to tell us, 'so you might as well enjoy the ride.' It's anti-hero Jake Donaghue is a likeable rogue who manages to come up smiling from a series of bizarre set piece comic situations in which he finds himself enmeshed: a Roman film-set and the kidnapping of an acting dog being two of the most unlikely. It is possible to overrate this book as some kind of philosophical treatise. That seems to have happened a bit since the sad death of its author. But in reality it is an enjoyable romp written by the young Iris Murdoch about a 1950s London which must have seemed full of fun and possibilities. It's a good read, and it will make you laugh, a strong enough reason to give it a go surely?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Over The Top 7 Oct 2008
Iris Murdoch's impressive debut novel remains as fresh and funny today as when she wrote it, over fifty years ago.

Although a philospophical study of life is being carried out in the book, it remains, relatively speaking, quite plot driven and the main characters are well defined and presented.

For me, the crux of the book is the relationship between the narrator, Jake and his estranged friend, Hugo, examined through a procession of unlikely and often comic set pieces.

A welcome, if rather unexpected, happy ending seems to promise a more conventional life for our hero and this feels right for a warm hearted and optimistic novel that is a delight to read and re-read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars out of 5 17 Feb 2006
By anibani
Published in 1954, Under the Net is an entertaining novel about one season in Jake Donaghue's life. Jake is a 30-ish writer in London whose specialty is translating French novels to English to earn money, which he hasn't much of, and he hasn't written anything original for sometime. Despite being semi-dependent on friends for survival (and a strong aversion for actual work), he seems very likeable, generous, loyal, and would not compromise his ideals for easy money. He is living everyone's romantic version of poverty, where everything works out and he's never actually desperate, in fact it's a bit too fantastic how he gets out of trouble sometimes, chasing one urgency (a long lost love or friendship he has to repair) after the next. But it's a feel good book because of that, and maybe in post-World War II London all this was not impossible. In the end, this very impressionable and impetuous character is more wise, has writing and employment plans, and is just as poor.
Jake's fascinating friends also add entertainment - the social climbing Madge and her friendly/devious fiancé Sammie the bookie, Jake's strangely loyal "assistant" Finn, his socialist filmmaker friend Hugo, and the attractive Quentin sisters who are two corners of a sad, 4-way unrequited love structure. Something exciting or dangerous is always happening.
The novel is also filled with nuggets of wisdom from Murdoch, that you can't help but feel she's pondered a lot on love, the intellectual life (vs. accomplishing work on a daily basis), and many other things. She describes swimming and judo with such zeal you feel it is something she has done, rather than just having researched on it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What a debut!!! 15 Jun 1999
By A Customer
I almost gave the book five stars had it not been for some problems and unclarities in the plot. However, when one notices that this is Iris Murdoch's first novel these minor errors are understandable, and in this light I regard the novel as a very impressive debut. Murdoch manages to analyse some basic human conditions in this very funny (occasionally bordering on the surrealistic and farcical) book. We can recognise many themes which permeate Murdoch's later writing, for example influences from philosphy and psychology, and as such the novel should appeal to anyone interested in the basic nature of life. At the same time the novel also serves as an allegory of Murdoch's own role and selfhood as an aspiring writer. In sum the book plays on several strings and is exceedingly profound, and although the book makes wide use of symbolism, it is also fairly accesible. Bravo Iris Murdoch.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A relentless series of frustrating events
Well written and fairly entertaining, but it doesn't make me desperate to read another Iris Murdoch book. The characters were good.
Published 5 days ago by Mrs
3.0 out of 5 stars Idealists
A difficult book, but I think the explanation that 'some people are born as idealists and dreamers, and the others are born as driven, energetic and enthusiasts' helps explain... Read more
Published 3 months ago by angela thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Featuring the most inept Hero in English Literature
This is the first Iris Murdoch I've ever read; before this, all I knew of her was that she was a darling of the Oxbridge Intelligensia and was played by Kate Winslett in the film... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Rottweiller Swinburne
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel plus
Iris Murdoch's first novel and how does she get so involved with her charaters. I feel I know them intimately and could step outside my door and meet them long after I have... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Christine
4.0 out of 5 stars all good
All was good really I would give them a five but as it was alkl good they have no need to be exceptional?
Published 7 months ago by MR P W R LAMBERT
4.0 out of 5 stars The fist of many
I read this book many years ago and in some ways struck some cords in my own career.
A classic is simply that!.
Published 9 months ago by Malcolm Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars A first novel to rank at the highest level
No wonder the book reviewers of the 1950s were so complimentary to a new author. This is one of Iris Murdoch's best.
Published 10 months ago by Professor Sandy RAEBURN
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful item
I am a teacher and I think that this book could be useful to talk about a nice novel with my pupils.
Published on 20 April 2011 by Francesco
2.0 out of 5 stars Superb novel, mixed Kindle experience.
I loved the novel. Gently funny and uplifting - a coming of age novel of sorts, I suppose.

The Kindle experience is what annoyed me - the text conversion seems to have... Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by J. Goretzki
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful wonderful
I loved this romp through fifties London from the very word go. It's entertaining, and a delightful escape. Read more
Published on 25 July 2006 by a nice guy
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