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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars strange and beautiful
The Unicorn is seen by some as Iris Murdoch's most perfect novel - for the first half at least. Some favourite Iris Murdochian elements reoccur - an isolated house by the sea, a dangerous and unswimmable ocean, unrequited and obsessive lovers - and there are some lasting descriptions of the Irish coast. This book sits with those books of hers which seem more 'felt':...
Published on 11 Mar 2004 by emmacactusgarden

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little bizarre
A friend of mine recommended this novel to me, describing it as similar to "Rebecca", which is a fantastic read. But, I was disappointed, and not just because it was only similar to Rebecca in terms of the mild curiosity it invoked. It felt gothic and myseterious and intriguing, but only in the first half. Later on, it almost becomes farcical when characters who didn't...
Published on 14 Aug 2012 by lucy


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars strange and beautiful, 11 Mar 2004
This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
The Unicorn is seen by some as Iris Murdoch's most perfect novel - for the first half at least. Some favourite Iris Murdochian elements reoccur - an isolated house by the sea, a dangerous and unswimmable ocean, unrequited and obsessive lovers - and there are some lasting descriptions of the Irish coast. This book sits with those books of hers which seem more 'felt': sometimes the games she plays with her characters can seem intellectual but here this is not the case. The mixture of mythological and fairy tale touches in this setting fox any attempt to put the novel into a simple category, and if you enjoy that sense of mystification which arises from her books then experiment with this, one of her lesser known but utterly wonderful works.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological, sinister, oppressive - and a good read, 23 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
My measure for whether or not I appreciate a book is (usually) whether it stays with me once I close its covers. This book has certainly done that - in a disturbing, oppressive way. The characters and their relationships are dark and subtly frightening, and that's what I found myself contemplating after reading the book. Iris Murdoch manages to create this emotion gradually, sneakily. I wasn't aware at first that this is what I was beginning to feel. On one hand, that mirrors the main character's realisations, which means the writing works really well. On the other hand, however, there are stretches of painfully slow storytelling (including some philosophical discussions that simply bored me - but I hardly ever think this kind of fictional debate works).

If you enjoy character revelations and relationships in unique settings, then I can definitely recommend this book. The actual plot and substance of the story I found negligible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure Murdoch: Gripping, darkly comic, tragic and downright bizarre, 16 Sep 2008
By 
Trevor Coote "Trevor Coote" (Tahiti, French Polynesia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Only Iris Murdoch can conjure scintillating entertainment out of errant nonsense and she does just that in this curious mixture of Gothic romance, allegory and Shakespearean comedy. Marian Taylor arrives at Graze Castle on a wild and remote part of the Irish coast on a teaching assignment. On arrival, instead of a class of children, she discovers that she is to tutor Hannah, an enigmatic middle-aged woman who is being held prisoner in the castle by a psychological barrier of her own making. Around Hannah there is a small group of neurotic, apparently jobless individuals - all interconnected - who either wish to keep her within the castle grounds or who wish her to escape but seem powerless to effect it. All the usual Murdoch elements are present: religious uncertainty, homosexuality, hints at the supernatural, and an atmosphere of repressed hysteria. The central theme is, of course (as always in Iris Murdoch's books), love in all its manifestations: all-powerful, deceptive, capricious, obsessive, destructive. By turns gripping, darkly comic, tragic and downright bizarre, The Unicorn is nevertheless not quite the author's best. For that try A Word Child, The Sea The Sea, or The Book and the Brotherhood.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good opener for a new recruit, 4 Sep 2002
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DM Webster "arakis2002" (Norfolk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Okay, I'll admit it. I was influenced by all the hype about the film (something i'm not usually guilty of). What's the harm in giving a new author a go I said to myself. So I chose a short one to see what all the fuss was about. The Unicorn caught my eye because I like all things gothic, and I wasn't disappointed here. Murdoch's description in this book is excellent, but what really caught my attention was the pastiche of gothicism that she presents. At times the action is very over the top and difficult to take seriously making the whole book a very enjoyable romp through the cliches of the genre. I have to say I loved this book and would read Murdoch again if this is anything to go by!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little bizarre, 14 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
A friend of mine recommended this novel to me, describing it as similar to "Rebecca", which is a fantastic read. But, I was disappointed, and not just because it was only similar to Rebecca in terms of the mild curiosity it invoked. It felt gothic and myseterious and intriguing, but only in the first half. Later on, it almost becomes farcical when characters who didn't seem to have much of an acquaintance suddenly profess their undying love. When the author tries to explain the Hannah-situation to Effingham (through the character of Max), I was totally bewildered and it seemed the novel had lapsed into a text book of Psychology or Philosophy. The main character Hannah is infuriating and I was completely confused about what so many men found attractive about her, given that she hardly seemed to do anything in the novel but play house with Marian and then cry incessantly. It can be the sign of a good book when you discuss the characters as if they were real, but in this case I am just venting my anguish at how under developed and vacuous the characters seemed. Parts of this book are beautifully written, but I wanted to engage with the novel, not just admire the pretty words and metaphors. Towards the end I realised I was only so determined to read through the chapters because I wanted to know who died and who departed (alive), like some rubber-necking reader. I certainly didn't care which characters survived and which ones did not.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why is Iris Murdoch so highly regarded?, 28 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
I have tried so hard, so very hard, with Iris Murdoch's novels. I have read several of them and all of them have left me unmoved and unimpressed.

I decided to give her one final chance by reading 'The Unicorn'.

And it's the same old story. Unbelievable characters and situations, poorly written prose, abstruse imagery and symbolism.

So much of 'The Unicorn' is funny, without Murdoch intending, of course, that it should be so.

That's it, no more Murdoch for me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rather gothic novel, 22 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Enjoyable is a stange way to describe this book which is definately odd but interesting. A mystery. what exactly happened and why are people getting twitchy about it seven years later? Myth and folklore mixed into a modern day story which is def. odd.
What can happen when people with the best intentions meddle and make things worse.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I have missed something?, 11 May 2013
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M. Bonsey (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
This is a page turner, but in the most lack-lustre sense of the phrase. I was intrigued by the suggestion that it was in a similar vein to Rebecca by Du Maurier, but in my opinion is not quite so compelling.

I fully appreciate the symbolism and the Gothic inspiration; however, I just felt a bit 'so what!?' when I had finished reading it. There were several plot developments that went nowhere (they seemed pointless rather than deliberate), and rather than feeling infuriated by the lack of resolution, I was rather nonplussed by it all. Don't get me wrong: it's not the fact that it was unresolved that I didn't like - I like a good bit of irresolution in a novel; I would rather feel something, even if it is frustration! But this gave me no food for thought.

Having said all this, the plot is at least partially compelling (I think in terms of the 'idea' more than anything) and some of the characters do undergo some intriguing developments. I will stow my copy away and have another read in a couple of years - I suspect it could be one of those novels that is more rewarding the second time.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Unicorn, 31 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
This is not a book i would recommend. Had to read it for my english seminar and no one particularly liked it, too strange and complex so some parts didn't really make sense.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed it! Fairytale meets gothic., 7 July 2005
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A. Donovan - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
'Miss Murdoch has taken the stock elements of the gothic novel and wrung hell out of them.... a strange combination of fairy tale and blood-and-thunder"
"When Marian Taylor takes a post as a governess at Gaze Castle, a remote house upon a beautiful but desolate coast, she finds herself confronted with a number of wierd mysteries and involved in a drama she only partly understands.
Some crime or catastrophe in the past still keeps the house like a castle of the Sleeping Beauty, under a spell, whose magic also touches the neighbouring house of Riders, inhabited by a scholarly recluse."
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The Unicorn (Vintage Classics)
The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) by Iris Murdoch (Paperback - 1 Feb 2001)
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