The Green Knight [NOOK Book]


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 ...
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The Green Knight

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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 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.

From the nationally acclaimed author of The Book of the Brotherhood comes a magnificently crafted and magical novel which explores biblical and medieval themes in a contemporary London setting. "Enthralling . . . its sensuousness, its visionary physical detail, is a pleasure."--San Francisco Chronicle.

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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101501641
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • File size: 547 KB

Meet the Author

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was one of the most acclaimed British writers of the twentieth century. Very prolific, she wrote twenty-six novels, four books of philosophy, five plays, a volume of poetry, a libretto, and numerous essays before developing Alzheimer's disease in the mid-1990s. Her novels have won many prizes: the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince, the Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, and the Booker Prize for The Sea, The Sea. She herself was also the recipient of many esteemed awards: Dame of the Order of the British Empire, the Royal Society of Literature's Companion of Literature award, and the National Arts Club's (New York) Medal of Honor for Literature.

She was born in Dublin, Ireland, on July 15, 1919, the only child of Anglo-Irish parents. Her father was a bookish civil servant who had served as a cavalry officer during World War I; her mother had trained as an opera singer before marrying. The love of both literature and music instilled in her by her parents proved to be powerful formative influences, and she reportedly began writing at the age of nine. The family moved to London in Iris's childhood and she grew up in the western suburbs of Hammersmith and Chiswich. The 1940s saw Iris receive a first-class degree in classics from Oxford, briefly become a member of the Communist Party (from which she resigned in disappointment), work in Belgian and Austrian refugee camps for the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Program, and befriend Jean-Paul Sartre, on whom she wrote what was to be her first published work, a critical study entitled Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953). In 1947 she took up a postgraduate studentship at Cambridge, studying philosophy under none other than Ludwig Wittgenstein. The fruits of these philosophical encounters went on to form an important part of her fertile talent as a novelist.

With three previous novels unpublished, Murdoch made her fiction-writing debut in 1954. Under the Net is a picaresque existentialist adventure set in London and Paris's Left Bank that displays many of the traits for which her later work is so admired: a fast-paced plot, finely wrought settings, imaginatively developed characters, and a strong philosophical concern with moral issues and ethical crises. Surpassing the somewhat derivative existentialist strictures of this nevertheless stunning debut, Murdoch published almost a novel per year throughout the 1950s, '60s, and '70s and continued at a slightly less feverish pace throughout the '80s and early '90s. With each book, she displayed her unique talent for combining a lively, comic touch in characterization and plot with a serious concern for such profound themes as the nature of goodness and human freedom. A novelist and philosopher rolled into one, Iris Murdoch declared in her famous essay "Against Dryness" (1961) that literature "has taken over some of the tasks formerly performed by philosophy." However, she never allowed her novels or her characters to become abstract stand-ins for philosophical viewpoints, asserting in the same essay that the novel should be "a fit house for free characters to live in."

Producing romances such as The Sandcastle (1957), religious fables such as The Bell (1958), and fantasies such as The Unicorn (1963), she ranged widely across genres and settings. A Severed Head (1961)later made into both a play and a filmtakes on Jungian archetypes and Freud's theories about masculine sexuality, while in The Red and the Green (1965), Murdoch, in her only foray into historical fiction, delved into the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Her calling cards became the intoxicating combination of love, marriage, adultery, sexuality, and religion, as well as the inventive use of gothic elements. In The Time of Angels (1966), for instance, the protagonist is an atheist Anglican priest in an impoverished inner-city parish who engages in black magicand through whom Murdoch explored the central question of the role of morality after the death of God.

From the 1970s into the 1990s, international acclaim and recognition
coincided with the publication of some of her finest work, including an
experimental novel of love gone mad, The Black Prince (1973), her popular and highly esteemed The Sea, The Sea (1978), and a Platonic investigation
of morality, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992), one of her most acclaimed nonfiction writings. Her last novel, Jackson's Dilemma (1995),
was published just as Alzheimer's began to take its toll. She died in Oxford on February 8, 1999, survived by her husband, John Bayley.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2008

    Out of Time

    This was not my favorite book, as I am not fond of books with magical realism. The characters' personalities, speech, and actions seemed unbelievable. The book had a feel of occurring in the past, but actually took place in modern times. However, that said, something kept me going to continue, and finish the book, and find out what happens to these characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2001

    Beautiful finish- worth the first pages

    A beautiful finish to this novel. It was spotty in parts, and I frequently wondered if early 90's British teens and early 20's talked and thought like that, but the finish was so well-rounded, so unexpected that I am left with a wonderful taste in my mouth. --------- The going is slow initially- I was reminded of D.H. Lawrence's 'Women in Love' because I just *didn't like those people*. I really didn't. I couldn't stand Joan, didn't like Bellamy, thought Harvey was vapid, and the Cliftonians unreal. I stuck around long enough to get to know them, and changed my attitude about some of them. I even became so involved that I was cheered by some of the mistakes being made right- especially when it came to the dog. I wanted to help correct things, and to influence people. ----------------------------- At times, I wondered who the novel was about. Was it Peter? Kind of- Peter transformed people, or so we assumed. (but did he?) Maybe it was the Cliftonians because they featured prominently? No, overall, events happened to them, but they didn't cause them. I thought for awhile that it was about Lucas, and in a way it was. Lucas was quite a force for 'the family', even though he was so rarely present. The novel even starts with his absence. But how could a novel be about an absent person? It doesn't matter though- it is about any of them and all of them. The marriages may have been a contrivance, but they were nice, some made sense, and others leave us with a lot to wonder about.------------------------------ Iris Murdoch is a wonderful writer, and weaves a beautiful web with unexpected moments. Even when I forget the action of a novel, I remember the feeling she left me with.

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