The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Green Knight

The Green Knight

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by Iris Murdoch
     
 

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Full of suspense, humor, and symbolism, this magnificently crafted and magical novel replays biblical and medieval themes in contemporary London. An attempt by the sharp, feral, and uncommonly intelligent Lucas Graffe to murder his sensual and charismatic half-brother Clement is interrupted by a stranger—whom Lucas strikes and leaves for dead. When the

Overview

Full of suspense, humor, and symbolism, this magnificently crafted and magical novel replays biblical and medieval themes in contemporary London. An attempt by the sharp, feral, and uncommonly intelligent Lucas Graffe to murder his sensual and charismatic half-brother Clement is interrupted by a stranger—whom Lucas strikes and leaves for dead. When the stranger mysteriously reappears, with specific demands for reparation, the Graffes’ circle of idiosyncratic family and friends is disrupted—for the demands are bizarre, intrusive, and ultimately fatal.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
England's preeminent philosopher-novelist ( The Message to the Planet ) reworks dark themes of murder and revenge in her overly long, 25th novel, set in contemporary London. A bevy of eccentric, old-world figures orbit central antagonists Lucas Graffe and Peter Mir as they play out an archetypal drama. One night in a park, genius-recluse Graffe attempts to murder his younger brother with a single blow to the head. Mir, a mysterious stranger, intervenes, receives the blow and is left for dead; his subsequent return and demand for justice invokes ancient myths. Though an excessive number of supporting players are endlessly intrigued (``It's a battle between two mad magicians!'' gushes one), the central drama remains diffuse. Murdoch's style is also ill-defined: one minute Angela Carter, the next Arthur Conan Doyle. The characters' lengthy philosophical ruminations seem the author's rather than their own; more realistic is the intensely British social anxiety that seeps from everyone--even the dog, to whose point of view we are extensively subjected. The book is far from perfect, but passages of intense writing and keen depictions of people grappling with afflictions of the soul remind us that Murdoch's perspective is invaluable. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Though it starts slowly, this philosophical novel soon envelops the reader in a Byzantine plot that weaves around nine characters. Peter Mir, the ``Green Knight'' of the title, is nearly killed when he intervenes to protect Clement Graffe from being murdered by Graffe's half-brother, Lucas. Mir mysteriously reappears and demands reparation from Lucas, provoking various responses from the two brothers and their circle of friends: Harvey Blacket; Bellamy Jones; the three Anderson sisters, Aleph, Sefton, and Moy; and their mother, Louise. As in other Murdoch novels, part of the exposition is a religious quest. Murdoch is skilled at keeping the reader turning the pages while allowing the characters to discuss and experience such weighty issues as guilt and redemption, revenge and transformation, and virtue and moral perfection. This is a superb novel, with great depth of plot and characterization as well as riveting suspense.-- Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
Brad Hooper
"The Green Knight" is, after all, an Iris Murdoch novel--which means it's painstaking and ruminative as it explores the murky waters of loss and redemption. But unlike many of her recent novels, this one doesn't drag; it takes wing with a sounder perception of human frailties and strengths, a keener sense of construction, and a lovelier style than she's been exhibiting lately. Joan and Louise live in London and have been friends for years, and the plot revolves around them and their network of family and friends. Two of the latter are brothers Lucas and Clement, who've been involved in a peculiar incident. It seems that Lucas, out of self-protection, killed a man who was trying to mug him. The truth of the matter is far more complex and serious. The reality is that Lucas was attempting to kill his brother when the other man intervened, although he did not actually die as a result (unknown to Lucas and Clement and most everyone else, including the newspaper-reading public). This man comes back into Lucas' life demanding justice for Lucas' assault, and the result is that not only are the brothers' lives altered forever by his actions, but so are those of Joan and Louise and everyone else in their crowd. A novel of intelligence and heart, appealing to Murdoch's audience or to any lover of serious literature.
Michiko Kakutani
Her most emotionally gripping novel yet...built around Manichaean juxtapositions of good and evil, love and power, celebration and passion, light and dark. -- The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
With her customary intellectual verve, Murdoch (The Message to the Planet, 1990, etc.)—that forthright investigator of profound mysteries—transfers the biblical story of Cain and Abel and the medieval Green Knight to a contemporary setting. That setting is suburban London, and because descriptive details are not Murdoch's strength—she thinks rather than looks—characters and places have a vague timeless feel, which doesn't matter too much because she's a consummate plotter. A heterogeneous group of characters linked by blood and friendship, and all dissatisfied with their lives to varying degrees, are about to be irrevocably changed by two men: one a friend, another a stranger. The group includes popular half-brother Clement; Bellamy, a homosexual contemplating entering a monastery; the widow Louise and her three daughters: beautiful Aleph, scholarly Sefton, and sensitive May; and young Harvey, abandoned by his mother. The first man—the friend—is Lucas Graffe, a renowned but reclusive scholar who disappeared after being acquitted of an accidental murder, but who now as mysteriously reappears. The second man, appearing shortly after Lucas's return, calls himself Peter Mir and is Lucas's assumed murder victim. Like an avenging angel and knight- errant, Mir is an instrument of "moral justice" and reveals that he'd actually prevented a murder: the blow that envious Lucas struck was intended for Clement. Mir, who soon becomes the group's avatar, insists on a symbolic reenactment of the murder—the novel's cathartic moment. Finally, justice is done, lives are transformed, and love is free to find its often surprising way. As to be expected fromMurdoch: a bracing journey through ancient mysteries and the dark pathways of the heart. And, as always, a stimulating read. (First printing of 35,000)

From the Publisher
“A tour de force . . . One puts down this novel with a feeling of having feasted at a table of great ideas.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“This is as enthralling a web as [Murdoch] has ever spun, and its sensuousness, its visionary physical detail, is a pleasure.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Her most emotionally gripping novel yet . . . built around Manichaean juxtapositions of good and evil, love and power, celebration and passion, light and dark.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670852291
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
01/12/1994
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.51(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A tour de force . . . One puts down this novel with a feeling of having feasted at a table of great ideas.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“This is as enthralling a web as [Murdoch] has ever spun, and its sensuousness, its visionary physical detail, is a pleasure.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Her most emotionally gripping novel yet . . . built around Manichaean juxtapositions of good and evil, love and power, celebration and passion, light and dark.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

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