It says a lot about the novels of Iris Murdoch that they can be appreciated by readers of widely differing literary tastes and expectations. At one level they are comical and absorbing yarns peopled by a mix of slightly absurd characters entangled in preposterous emotional webs, often of their own making. But they are also profound meditations on the individual's desperate search for love and freedom in a frightening and incoherent reality. Degrees of Freedom was written by A S Byatt in 1965. In it she dissects the early novels of Iris Murdoch concentrating on notions of freedom, a central theme in most of her works, most particularly in its complicated association with love and morality. She does this with reference to the works and ideas of Sartre and Simone Weil, Freud and Plato, as well as to Murdoch's own critical and philosophical essays. Here, the 1965 book has been updated with a whistle-stop tour of some of her later works up to the Book and the Brotherhood, penned in 1987, together with an interesting overview of the author and her work. There is a final brief chapter on AS Byatt's own Angels and Insects in relation to nineteenth century religious and moral certainties and the Victorian realist tradition. Although Byatt is sometimes critical of Murdoch's achievements, Degrees of Freedom is really for admirers of Iris Murdoch and it is better to have read the novels being reviewed. Typically dense and academic literary criticism.
An excellent book if you have read the novels of Iris Murdoch but are struggling to fully understand the plot in each book I whole heartedly recommend this book as it fills in the gaps for you. First published in 1965 the book explores the first eight novels of Iris Murdoch, examining the theme of freedom in all of them and also taking a look at the relations between art and goodness, master and slave. If your a fan of Iris Murdoch buy this book a brilliant read.