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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's Becoming of Being?
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...
Published on 29 Jan 2001

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful comedy in fifties London
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...
Published on 4 Feb 2001


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's Becoming of Being?, 29 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Under the Net (Paperback)
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. What Murdoch seems to be saying is that we must be swept along by the course of our own story and not be caught "under the net." The old argument which Bellow echoes also of Being and Becoming. Living, not without reflection, but containing the dialogue between oneself and existence within because once it is set out on paper it becomes a story, not life. "The substance of my life is a private conversation with myself which to turn into a dialogue would be equivalent to self destruction." Jake is learning to live more fully by instinct and self-forgetfulness. He is learning to allow other people's point of views into his own life. He finds that by constantly looking only within himself he isn't able to see anyone there. The being has left.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Featuring the most inept Hero in English Literature, 4 Dec 2013
This review is from: Under The Net (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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 of her life. And this was her first novel - first novels can be problematic - so I approached with caution.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the story of Jake Donaghue, surely the most inept hero ever to stumble into the pages of English Literature. Jake scrapes a precarious living by translating literary works from the French, sponging off friends (and as often as not sleeping on their floors, as he has no fixed abode) and dreaming about being a proper writer - though doing very little about it as he is, on his own admission, bone idle. His friends are a motley collection of left-wing activists, tramps, gamblers, spivs and bar-room philosophers, and he spends a lot of time wondering if he is really in love with any of his female acquaintances and, if so, which one? Whenever fortune comes his way he manages to find a way to destroy his chances of success. For instance, at one point he makes his way to Paris in order to wed one of his ex-girlfriends (since he has decided that by a process of elimination he must be in love with her), and as a result gets offered a highly-paid and prestigious script-writing post with a major French film studio. But this goes against his vaguely-defined principles, and he returns penniless to London, where he is reduced to kipping on a bench by the Thames.
In terms of intellectual climate and its evocation of social milieu, this work strongly reminded me of "Hangover Square", with its feckless hero constantly misunderstanding the events that surround him and blundering through life like a ship lost in fog. Maybe this isn't surprising or unusual, since Hamilton (1904-1962) and Murdoch (1919-1999) were contemporaneous, as were Dickens (1812-1870) and Thackeray (1811-1863), another two British writers whose works strongly share the same atmosphere, themes and resonance. But the difference is that World War Two, with the enormous social and economic upheaval that it created, separated Hamilton and Murdoch in terms of the periods in which they were most active (Murdoch was just getting started - "Net" was published in 1951 - while Hamilton had shot his bolt by the 1950s), so I find the similarity in tone between the two rather surprising.
However, this is no bad thing, since I regard Hamilton as one of the greatest British writers that nobody has ever read, while for me the discovery of Murdoch is a great blessing. It has to be said that "Net" isn't always successful. Occasionally the characterisation is a little stilted and sometimes the humour falls a bit flat. But what the hell, it's her first novel, and anyone could be proud to have written such a corker as their literary debut, for the odd slip here and there does nothing to dampen the overall impact the book makes. Her observations are slicingly acute and her powers of description nothing less than awesome, so that one can see why she went on to become one of the century's literary Greats.
If you've never read a Murdoch before and/or you're a fan of Patrick Hamilton, you won't go far wrong with this novel. Thoroughly recommended, with minor caveats hardly worth the mention.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Over The Top, 7 Oct 2008
By 
Rotgut "rotgut" (Warrington UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under The Net (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful tune-up to the later more successful novels., 14 Jun 2014
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Under The Net (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
Iris Murdoch took a leaf out of Beckett's early 1st novel,Murphy,in having a peripatetic narrator,who moves around London,in a series of picaresque adventures of a ne'er-do-well kind,the tone bohemian/offbeat,and both narrators have jobs at some stage in hospitals.Her very 1st published book,Sartre:Romantic Rationalist,had givenher ideas of existentialism and contingency,Jake `goes with the flow',but all reality is not constant or unchanging,as Jake searches for the truth,stability,love,the uncontingent. Both Beckett, who moved to France,stopped writing in English,wrote then in French,to strip away the phenomenal traps of language;and Murdoch,through Hugo,the philosopher/film-maker,moves away from theory and generality,in the move towards truth and the particularity of the individual situation itself,for Jake to escape the net of language,to crawl under the net,to live with it and to see behind it.Hugo vows silence.

Jake is tossed out of Madge's flat at the beginning and has to look up old flames and acquaintances with his sidekick,Finn.He finds Anna Quentin,who puts him on to her sister Sadie.Jake,being a writer-hack,translating the works of a French writer.He also through his friend Hugo Belfounder,explores truth through forms of dialogue with each other,how language(through his book The Silencer) traps us in its conceptual nets.Murdoch shows how through the miraculous vitality of life-a series of hapless adventures or episodes in which the hero is constantly sidetracked and hilariously thwarted from pursuing his ends,followed by periods of reflection on those actions and drinking-we drive onwards.The relationship between appearance and reality,the search for truth and the desire to know if one can ever truly know another person,is a central theme.Jake Donague's aim is to become a writer,who will write this book.

Through a process of his relations with other characters we come to know Jake.His interpretations of events and the people around him is always wrong,but they are presented to us as if they are right.Murdoch depicts the vulnerabilities of the human being,who is not immune to the contingencies of the world.We move through individual desires,intentions and minds.A woman Jake is in love with says:"Only very simple things can be said without falsehood,and the simple things are the quotidian." Jake's frantic odyssey catapults him all over London and back to Paris,before restoring him at the end of the book to the bosom of Mrs Tinckham,much the wiser for his adventures,ready to pen this novel we've been reading.We've travelled through an erotic comedy of errors,swims in the midinight Thames,broken into flats,survived revolts in film studios,escaped from hospitals,kidnapped a dog in a cage.Murdoch's genius is to present the solution to these existentialist dilemmas on the surface of the book through the hilarious forms of ludic absurdity.How fiction is a a reflection of reality,by removing veils of illusion,the artist searches for truth through the medium of language,Jake can grow into someone who can produce real art,have real relationships.

.
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13 of 15 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars out of 5, 17 Feb 2006
By 
anibani (Cambridgeshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under the Net (Paperback)
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. Perhaps it should not have been told in the first person because at times it does not sound like the thoughts of an immature male writer who is still finding himself, but someone wiser. It takes thirty pages (out of 286) to get going and I'm not sure everyone will relate to Jake's character, but it's certainly a worthwhile read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good humour and sparkles like the best champagne, 14 Sep 2014
Under the Net is an outstanding example of a First Novel. It has joie de vivre, energy, good humour and sparkles like the best champagne. It must be one of the best written novels of the 20th century and the great set pieces deserve to be anthologised. So it is understandable ,if a mistake, for some to consider that after this it has been downhill all the way for Iris. Certainly, this is the Murdoch to recommend to those who can't stand her later works.
The Penguin Vintage Classics Edition benefits from a succinct Introduction from Kiernan Ryan who covers the main points while not getting bogged down in the Philosophy. As an Irishman he appreciates the Celtic lilt of the prose (how well it works if read with an Irish brogue! ) and its deprecatory humour which is hardly characteristic of Murdoch's later narrators. There is much here that is unique in the canon; Sammy, the flash bookie, the film industry, even Lefty and his offers of political involvement which Jake (and Murdoch) characteristically ignore. But prototypes developed exhaustively in later books are the Jewish philosopher, Dave, and Hugo as first magician and later Holy Fool.
Part of the special atmosphere that makes Under the Net so beguilingly different is its recreation of early '50s London, a time which was the not the most glamorous in the city's existence but when its inhabitants had a generosity and warmth not always to be discerned in their successors ( Mrs Tinkham, the taxi driver, the on-lookers gaping at Jake's antics. ) Of course, it is not sociologically precise, but it convinces as a part of Murdoch's joyous vision of the world, a celebration of her successful escape from existential angst
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3.0 out of 5 stars ... Murdoch I've read and the only one that has disappointed. I found the narrator shallow and irritating, 31 Oct 2014
This review is from: Under The Net (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
The fourth Murdoch I've read and the only one that has disappointed. I found the narrator shallow and irritating. The events he negotiates are mildly amusing but pointless. In fact the whole novel seems aimless. It's only redeeming quality is Murdoch's wonderful writing style. I'm afraid that's the only thing that kept me going. The pub crawl through Holborn down to a midnight swim in the Thames and the narrator's wandering search for a lost love through the streets and parks of Paris were magical pieces of writing, and they are the only reasons I've given it as much as three stars. There are much better Murdochs to be read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Needing no introduction, 30 April 2014
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Mr. P. J. Morton (Rossendale) - See all my reviews
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I have nothing about the book I wish to add that hasn't already been written in the positive reviews (as an Iris Murdoch novel it's satisfying, and as a debut it's remarkable.)

I do just want to add a note about Kiernan Ryan's introduction. Some introductions (eg for "On the Road") work as a lovely piece of historical context and biographical detail, others just tell you exactly what you're about to read. This one does the latter. The book isn't especially diminished by knowing what happens, but on occasion I couldn't help but wish I was enjoying things for the first time. So I thought I'd post a note about it, in case anyone still reads introductions.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A relentless series of frustrating events, 12 April 2014
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Mrs (Farnham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Well written and fairly entertaining, but it doesn't make me desperate to read another Iris Murdoch book. The characters were good.
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Under The Net (Vintage Classics)
Under The Net (Vintage Classics) by Iris Murdoch (Paperback - 24 Jan 2002)
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