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4.3 out of 5 stars24
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 14 February 2008
The Black Prince is in my opinion the finest novel Iris Murdoch wrote, and perhaps one of the finest novels of its time. The description of Bradley falling in love will stay with me forever. Bradley, although perhaps not the most endearing character, is so real I feel I could meet him at any moment. He certainly is not endearing, and yet as another reviewer wrote we feel profound sympathy for him. The plot is beautifully crafted, and the twist at the end is a masterstroke. The postscripts at the end of the novel where you see events from the point of view of the other main characters is simply a stroke of genius. I will never forget this book.
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on 6 February 2004
Like many of Murdoch's novels, one is almost dismayed at the drab wretchedness of the narrator's life, which oddly enough, makes for compelling reading. Bradley Pearson is perhaps one of the most unsympathetic characters ever portrayed, petty, manipulative, jealous and cold and yet the reader finds himself in the uncomfortable position of sympathising with the man. It is here that the genius of this book lies. Providing an interesting, if somewhat unstructured 'extended essay' on aesthetics, Truth and the black Eros the novel is thought provoking and witty, not least in its final grim twist.
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on 12 February 1999
I've read about half of Iris Murdoch's books, and I believe this book represents the pinnacle of her achievement. The book is deeply satisfying from beginning to end. The plot, which revolves around an older man's obsession with a young girl, echoes a classic theme which goes back as far as Plato's Symposium. As the author interweaves her meditations on art, beauty, Hamlet, and book-a-year novelists into this standard plot, the book achieves a level of self-consciousness found in the greatest literature. And like her earlier works, it is fun to read. Having the main characters comment on the story at the end is a wonderful device, both profound and entertaining. This is one of my two or three favorite novels. Over the years I've loaned my hardcover edition out to friends so often, it now looks like a well worn library book.
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on 28 April 1999
Iris Murdoch took me on a roller-coaster adventure through a comic succession of surprises but also terrible blows of a sort of fate. While the novel has a lot of amusing moments--even bedroom farce--the surprises finally turn grim and unsettling. The author meditates (sometimes rather talkily) on Platonic concepts of love, on psychology, and on what is probably religion. "Black Prince" is gripping and motivated me to read it under forced draft. Be on notice that the two forewords are part of the novel and should be read as such. An Italian sonnet is left unattributed and untranslated. We are never told directly and explicitly why the protagonist is called "The Black Prince."
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on 28 November 1996
"The Black Prince" is my favorite novel, and I can recommend it unreservedly for its vivid characters, for its complexity, its wit, its drama, for its analysis of human failings and triumphs, loves and hates, and for its prose, which is ecstatic, biting, and brilliant. The ambiguously romantic Black Prince of the title, Bradley Pearson, is an aged bachelor, whose range of somewhat histrionic emotions involves the serene Rachel Baffin, her confused daughter Julian, Rachel's novelist husband Arnold, Bradley's rival in so many ways, Bradley's dysfunctional sister Priscilla, and Bradley's prying ex-wife Christian, who holds the possibility of solace and redemption. In amongst this tangled web they weave Bradley "meditates" on art and metaphysics, sleeping and waking, life and death.

Iris Murdoch is the English authoress of a score of popular novels. Unlike the submissions of most writers who attempt to be popular, Ms. Murdoch's elegant fictions are literature, and are also aspirants to the semi-mythical realm of "art". And what is "art"? Is it not, in at least its principle manifestation, great entertainment? And I would assert that the greatness of the entertainment depends mightily upon the reader. I know a man who thinks, and says, that all of Iris Murdoch's books are alike. Very well. Emotional response is surely the beginning of literary criticism (otherwise why bother reviewing this book, or that one?). I identified with Bradley Pearson for several years of my life, and was jubilant that he lived in a world of funny, thoughtful, intensely interesting people, most of whom were not relatives.

"Morality" (I put this fragile word between quotation marks because it is so often misused) is intimate to the Murdoch view of things, and the "eternal verities" are influential, even numinous, to all of her characters, including the thoughtless ones. Love, as a unifying force, is awake and vibrant. Beauty is our glimpse of the Godhead. Truth is a paradise into which we may freely pass, if only we have the desire to do so. Justice is as intimate as self-condemnation and as ruthless as violence. Abstractions, in the world of Iris Murdoch's characters, dissolve into human emotions that clarify the world and link us in splendid ways to other human animals. "The Black Prince" is a celebration of our ambiguous and splendid emotions. [November 28, 1996]
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on 24 March 1999
"The Black Prince" is a repelling page-turner. I often found myself reaching to pick it up, then reaching past it for almost anything else. It is a mordant study of the psychological tennis match that constitutes so much of human interaction. It is a novel with not one likeable character, and yet one can somehow relate to all of them. I found it disturbing throughout, but was quite taken with it.
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on 24 January 2004
People who have never read a word Iris Murdoch has ever written, criticise her for being "difficult".
If any of them picked up The Black Prince", I would be amazed if they didn't enjoy it. The characters are hysterically funny at times - all with their own weird hang-ups. There are parts of the plot that make one cringe in the manner of a Fawlty Towers episode.
The one thing that surprised me is how well Iris Murdoch can write from a male perspective, so much so that one wonders how outraged the literati might have been if some of the physical descriptions of women had been written by a male writer.
Thoroughly recommended.
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on 2 July 2011
Having recently watched the movie "Iris" I purchased The Black Prince. This is such a refreshinging original novel that I enjoyed the chaos, dialogue and lack of obvious direction, page by page. I often pauesed to consider Murdoch as she must have felt upon completing a particular passage of the novel - quietly pleased and wearing a smile. That is how I felt reading the pages.
It isn't often that we are given or are interested in an older central character - they don't seem to matter much or be given a convincing voice with which to scream "I'm alive". The axis between old and young, successful and prostrate, is at the heart of the story. I'm sure that any reader with curiousity and a love of fine writing will embrace this novel, and do as I'm about to - read another of her novels. Enjoy...
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on 29 June 2010
Fascinating Murdoch - unreliable - well, not exactly narrator, novelist rather - Bradley Pearson recounts the events of his 58th year. Murdoch has great fun with literary theorists and academics, helpfully giving several ways of analysing the narration by way of adding the opinions of various characters on Bradley's book at the end. 'Hamlet' features strongly. Platonic ideas are played out. There seems little to like about Bradley yet like him in some odd way we do (well I did anyway). Love, death and redemption crop up throughout yet we are, naturally, (this is Murdoch) offered no easy answers to any questions concerning them. A richly satisfying read from one of the greatest 20th century novelists
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on 15 July 2015
Iris murdoch's Black Prince is a novel that explores the many intricacies of human relationships. Possibly it's her best book because she combines her philosophy of life with a first rate and absorbing story. All her characters in their encounters with each other reflect our own comings and goings, weakness and strengths. Over the years, I've read most of her novels, beginning with The Bell. Iris Murdoch is my favourite novelist and I place her among the greats such as Charles Dickens. She is uniquely herself but offers her readers much to meditate upon..
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