Customer Reviews


32 Reviews
5 star:
 (16)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of repressed passions and buried secrets.
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...
Published on 10 July 2003

versus
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but somewhat dated
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...
Published on 4 Jun 2001


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of repressed passions and buried secrets., 10 July 2003
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. Dark, beautiful, meditative and reflective are all words that could be used to describe 'The Bell' but none can really do justice to its subtle power. In fact such is its magic that it is only when you go on to read something else that you realise how profoundly it has affected you. Find it, read it, treasure it and fall under its spell.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 12 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This was one of those books that I couldn't put down. Iris Murdoch paints complex pictures of people, who develop and change, and her plots work on multiple levels. This was no exception: emotionally, she depicts the characters developing understanding of themselves and their world. The characters both grow and find their "core". On a philosophical level, it touches on sexuality, motivations, religion. And then there is the story: I was surprised to find myself gripped by the middle of the book by what the characters were going to do next, having been "set up". Scatty, sensuous Dora in the woods at night alone with young Toby.... and a bell... Definately worth reading. I would have loved to have seen the BBC's dramatization of it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis, 17 Oct 2008
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]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strikes a chord (sorry...), 19 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Bell (Paperback)
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.

Some of the reviews posted here have taken issue with the book's "old-fashioned" or "outdated" views, particularly with regard to homosexuality. For me, another shock is the generosity and sympathy with which Murdoch draws the character of Michael, a man prematurely middle aged by dint of his thwarted (indeed, illegal) love. Whether she intended it or not, Murdoch's delineation of Michael appears to suggest that suppression of his true self thwarts his becoming a whole person. His erotic impulse is adolescent, and its object boys rather than men (first a 14-year-old, later an 18-year-old). Even today these boundaries are blurred; to be sympathetic to their impulse in 1958 seems to me quite remarkable.

By the close of the novel, erotic attraction has wreaked some devastating ends. And yet it doesn't feel heavy-handed or morally didactic. THE BELL shimmers with vivid pictures and imagery and emotion. I feel almost lost without this parallel world, and certainly less for having relinquished the intelligence, care and humanity with which words on the page conjured it and its inhabitants to life.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of repressed passions and buried secrets., 10 July 2003
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. Dark, beautiful, meditative and reflective are all words that could be used to describe 'The Bell' but none can really do justice to its subtle power. In fact such is its magic that it is only when you go on to read something else that you realise how profoundly it has affected you. Find it, read it, treasure it and fall under its spell.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Introspection, 22 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bell (Kindle Edition)
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. As a Celt my instinct is to say "Oh, get a life". I do though recognise great writing too but the only moments which seemed real to me involved the laughter of the young Irish nun in contrast to the introspective bores on the outside of the abbey.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine novel about personal morality, sexuality and religion, 25 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Bell (Paperback)
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 which was lost in the neighbouring lake many years earlier, and also around the tensions which stem from the lay community's efforts to establish itself. Sexual tensions, both hetero- and homo-, abound: in particular, the unofficial leader of the community, Michael Meade, struggles unsuccessfully to reconcile his own homosexuality with (what he perceives to be) his religion's disapproval of it. Two temporary visitors to the community, Dora Greenfield and Toby Gashe, also play a central role: Dora is unhappily married to Paul and is temporarily attracted to Toby, whose immaturity, and uncertainty about his own sexuality, lead him into embarrassing situations with both Dora and Michael.

Many people think that this is Iris Murdoch's best novel. I have read around half of her novels and have found them to be of variable quality: some are (in my view) rather trivial, some are worthwhile but not memorable, and a few are first rate. I would certainly put The Bell into this last category. The central characters are well drawn and their interactions with one another produce a series of crises and tensions which maintain interest throughout. I rate The Sea, The Sea as the best Murdoch novel that I have read, but this one runs it close.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book rings a bell, 28 Jan 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bell (Paperback)
I remember reading this book way back at school and finding it haunting and resonating. So much so that it's on my list to read again. It's even available on Kindle, which is great because even an old-fashioned book lover who swears that nothing can replace the smell of a brand new book is fast becoming a fan of the e-book. All my book shelves are full anyway and I don't want to part with any of them!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars in my opinion the best Iris Murdoch novel, 11 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bell (Paperback)
I have read about eight of Ms Murdoch's novels and this is my favourite. So what is it about? A lay community existing in the shadow of a working Abbey run by nuns. A sequence of events and visitors to the community culminates in high drama and final dissolution. The characters who live in these pages are perfectly believable and some are more immediately likeable than others, but while the author does not miss a mean trick or an ungenerous thought in any of them, she appears to report it all without judgement. The judgements are up to us to make, and how enjoyable this is. For me this is the joy of the book. How much I dislike Mrs Mark, a founder member of the lay community, for trying to impose her moral values on a wayward visitor. I also dislike her for having legs which contrive to be shiny and hairy at the same time - an unattractive figure. How much, on the other hand, I would like to embrace another member of the community, Michael, who is lion-hearted despite all the self-interest around him. Unfortunately Michael's spiritual ambitions are at odds with his homosexuality and his struggle is all the harder because there is no happiness left in him. A previous love affair had brought him joy but left him irreparably damaged when it disintegrated suddenly. There are several other key figures including generous, wayward Dora who is a spirited and exciting woman but an absolute chaos-merchant at the same time. Love is a strong theme to the book, (all sorts of love, all strange, all unsatisfactory) and the conflict between desire to do good and base instinct is another. I strongly recommend this, especially if you are feeling in need of comfort. I hope I haven't made it sound too serious, because it is a smart, upbeat book veined with gentle humour, and it would be my 2nd desert island choice (first would be Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis).
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Bell
The Bell by Iris Murdoch (Paperback - Sep 1969)
Used & New from: 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews