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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BIDISHA Funny, subversive, curious, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch is one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary Vintage Classics present a selection of some of her best and most engaging novels. ‘It’s all dry sand running through the fingers.’ When Bill Mor falls in love with Rain Carter he discovers a ne WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BIDISHA Funny, subversive, curious, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch is one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary Vintage Classics present a selection of some of her best and most engaging novels. ‘It’s all dry sand running through the fingers.’ When Bill Mor falls in love with Rain Carter he discovers a new way of being and a new joy in the world and his surroundings. To be with Rain he must abandon his prosaic life as a schoolmaster, his domineering wife Nan and his troubled teenaged children. He must draw on the powers of selfishness, hatred and anger in order to make the final break. But what love could survive all that violence?


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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BIDISHA Funny, subversive, curious, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch is one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary Vintage Classics present a selection of some of her best and most engaging novels. ‘It’s all dry sand running through the fingers.’ When Bill Mor falls in love with Rain Carter he discovers a ne WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BIDISHA Funny, subversive, curious, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch is one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary Vintage Classics present a selection of some of her best and most engaging novels. ‘It’s all dry sand running through the fingers.’ When Bill Mor falls in love with Rain Carter he discovers a new way of being and a new joy in the world and his surroundings. To be with Rain he must abandon his prosaic life as a schoolmaster, his domineering wife Nan and his troubled teenaged children. He must draw on the powers of selfishness, hatred and anger in order to make the final break. But what love could survive all that violence?

30 review for The Sandcastle: Vintage Classics Murdoch Series

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    4.5 stars This is Iris Murdoch’s third novel. It revolves around Bill Mor, a middle-aged teacher in a minor public school. He has a wife (Nan) and two children (Donald and Felicity). He also has some political ambitions; to stand as a Labour Candidate in a local parliamentary seat. He hasn’t yet had the courage to tell his wife as she will be opposed to this and generally gets her own way. Into this situation comes Rain Carter; a talented painter almost half Bill’s age. She is there to paint a po 4.5 stars This is Iris Murdoch’s third novel. It revolves around Bill Mor, a middle-aged teacher in a minor public school. He has a wife (Nan) and two children (Donald and Felicity). He also has some political ambitions; to stand as a Labour Candidate in a local parliamentary seat. He hasn’t yet had the courage to tell his wife as she will be opposed to this and generally gets her own way. Into this situation comes Rain Carter; a talented painter almost half Bill’s age. She is there to paint a portrait of the former headmaster. Rain and Bill fall in love with each other and Bill is then torn between his family and the prospect of happiness and a different life with Rain. There are twists, turns and workings out. There are elements of tragedy and comedy in fairly equal measure and Murdoch rather expertly makes it difficult for the reader to see where one ends and the other starts. There are a number of oddities in this; I am no expert in the nature of human attraction, but it was not immediately obvious why Rain fell for Mor. He was indecisive and rather lacking in personal charisma; both are also quite unworldly and Mor seeks to avoid confrontations (mostly with his wife). Murdoch uses a number of literary devices to move the story along and to provoke thought; letters being read by those not meant to read them, accidental encounters and the mysterious tramp/gypsy whose appearance seems to be a precursor to trouble. The characterisation is good and although the plot may be slow, it is never dull. The sandcastle of the title may be symbolic of the impermanence of hopes and dreams. All of the characters have lost something by the end, had some hope or other dashed. Murdoch does a very good job of illuminating the everyday hopes and despairs of ordinary people in a subtle and understated way. A good novel which reminds me that I must read more Murdoch.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    ‘The Sandcastle’ (1957) was Iris Murdoch’s third published novel and is far less well known than the much later, much revered and Booker prize winning ‘The Sea, The Sea’. ‘Sandcastle’ tells the story of schoolteacher Mor, his wife Nan and Rain – the young woman who is tasked with painting a portrait of the school’s Headmaster and the subsequent disturbance and disquiet caused by her arrival. It is the story of a closed world and the impact of the outsider – Rain Carter and all she brings with her ‘The Sandcastle’ (1957) was Iris Murdoch’s third published novel and is far less well known than the much later, much revered and Booker prize winning ‘The Sea, The Sea’. ‘Sandcastle’ tells the story of schoolteacher Mor, his wife Nan and Rain – the young woman who is tasked with painting a portrait of the school’s Headmaster and the subsequent disturbance and disquiet caused by her arrival. It is the story of a closed world and the impact of the outsider – Rain Carter and all she brings with her from the world outside. It is a story combining themes of love, desire, guilt, control, power, reality and fantasy. It is a story where reality, destiny and defeatism meet fantasy and a free and dream like state where seemingly everything just might be possible. ‘Sandcastle’ is a strong story and the narrative is well paced throughout. Murdoch’s characterisation is for the most part, outstanding and has a real feel of authenticity to it – especially the main protagonist Bill Mor. There is much ambiguity throughout ‘Sandcastle’ right up to the closing pages – providing the novel with much intrigue, mystery and interest concerning the possibilities that life offers, be they real and/or imagined. Murdoch also includes sporadic elements of magical realism – which in one sense don’t feel at first as though they quite work, or sit well in the context of the rest of the story and it is not clear quite what they do add to an already driven narrative. And yet… it is these elements that do help develop and drive the novel’s overall intrigue, mysterious nature and air of ambiguity. ‘Sandcastle’ can be read on various levels – as a relatively straightforward love story, or on a much more metaphorical basis – indeed metaphor is strong throughout; the books title ‘Sandcastle’ itself being a case in point. This is the first Murdoch that I have read thus far – but based on the strength of ‘The Sandcastle’ I will surely be endeavouring to search out more of Murdoch’s novels.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    Iris Murdoch is an exceptional novelist. I’m using a present tense despite the fact that she isn’t among the living, because I believe that in a way writers always live on- at least in their works. So, to me she still is a remarkable writer, even if she is not physically writing any more. Having finished this novel earlier this evening, I kept thinking about the reasons that make her so adapt and well suited for writing novels. One of these is surely her intellect. That her intellect was quite r Iris Murdoch is an exceptional novelist. I’m using a present tense despite the fact that she isn’t among the living, because I believe that in a way writers always live on- at least in their works. So, to me she still is a remarkable writer, even if she is not physically writing any more. Having finished this novel earlier this evening, I kept thinking about the reasons that make her so adapt and well suited for writing novels. One of these is surely her intellect. That her intellect was quite remarkable, to that we can all agree. I’m not familiar with her philosophical work, but honestly I feel that I don’t need to be. I don’t need to know everything about her career as an academic in order to be able to fully appreciate her as a writer. Moreover, perhaps it is better not to dwell on it too much. That Iris had serious brain power is very apparent in her writing. No need to go any further than that. In fact, I think what makes her a great writer is that she is able to put all that aside. When she writes, Iris becomes, first and foremost a writer. That is to say, she is a true artist, one that is naturally and wonderfully lost in the world of her creation. Intellect is just one of her tools she employs as a writer. So, what else makes her writing so remarkable? I suppose that many great novels can be said to have one important talent- that of making their characters come to life. Iris was certainly very good at that. She was such a careful observant of human beings, both as individuals and part of society. Iris understood just how complex a human being is, what an acute mess of profound and shallow all of us are. Sometimes what governs us is purely accidental. Sometimes we’re overcome by sometimes as banal as a passing emotion. We all change our mind more often than we would like to admit. Great decisions in life are at times made for banal reasons. Iris manages to capture that and somehow you can feel that she is capable both of restraining from judgement and making a slight fun of her characters. This novel like many of her works, focuses on theme of adultery and marriage. The novel opens up with Mor having a conversation with his wife. Mor is a deeply unhappy middle aged man. He is (as one American sitcom had put it) married with children. What is interesting is that he doesn’t even realize that he is unhappy. He is married to a woman that terrifies him, but somehow he doesn’t question that. After all, aren’t men expected to do the right thing, to take care of their families? Fulfil their duties and obligations? Much has been said about the entrapment of women in a domestic life, but aren’t often men just as unhappy with their life? If you cut them, do they not bleed? If you think that Nan, Mor’s wife is the bad guy here, you’re mistaken. Nothing so obvious and simple could take place in Murdoch’s novel. The tragedy is that Nan is deeply unhappy as well- on some level. That’s the thing. Aren’t all capable of being profoundly sad and remaining blissfully unaware of that? At some level we’re content to be content with less- that’s perhaps one of gravest tragedies of life. Nan is a passive- aggressive manipulator, but that doesn’t mean she’s not depicted as human. How wonderfully human she is! A professional wife, one that doesn’t try to find any interest of her own, one that finds her comfort in feeling superior to other fussy people because she has no need to fuss. Nan imagines herself strong, but she is deluded. Haven’t we all sometimes? Nan doesn’t deeply care for her children, her feelings for them are all instinct, she will take care of their needs, do their laundry when they came back from school but that is where her care ends. It is obvious she doesn’t dwell on the content of their souls. Nan purposely builds her life around her husband because that is what gives her control over him and in that way makes her feel in control of her own life. How horribly depressive, but you can’t help feeling for her, especially as the novel progresses and she develops further as a character. So, Mor falls in love with a young women. An exceptional young women. You would think her a femme fatale, but she is anything but. No, a femme fatale is not here- that would be too simple. Rain (that is her name) is an artist. I would hasten to add that it was a smart move to make her an artist. Not only did it gave the writer to explore the theme of art, but it added depth to the character of Rain. In reality, she is the one I felt for the most. Perhaps because she is so young. Age is not irrelevant as Iris knows very well. What about other characters? There are quite a few of them and they are all wonderful. Iris creates her characters with such attention to detail. It always astonishes me just how real they seem. For example, the old headmaster of the school in which Mor is employed. He is the one that receives Rain, the painter in his home. He is a close friend of Mor’s, but he detest his wife. In fact, that is what the opening conversation between Mor and Nan is about, he is telling her about how school decided to commission a portrait of the old master. She is appealed by the idea and considers it a waste of money- we can see a bit of clever foreshadowing here, can’t we? The other teachers from the school are quite interesting characters too. When it comes to other characters, I must especially mention Mor’s children. His son Donald is in his school while his daughter Felicity is away but she visits often. His relationship with them was very interesting. Despite him falling in love with other woman and being so lost in his feelings, you got this feeling that he is the one that deeply cares about them, not his wife- yet he is so awkward around them. The painfulness that Mor felt for not being able to connect to his children was much evident. A part of it surely comes from his own frustration with his life. Mor’s childen seem to be very intuitive, but that is actually a common trait in Iris’s writing. To me that intuitiveness of her young characters (teenagers and kids) always has a ring of truth in it. For aren’t the young ones often the most sensitive ones? I will just say a few more words on the story itself. I didn’t reveal much in this review because I want you to enjoy the novel, so I will just say that I enjoyed the plot. Everything that happened felt very logical and well thought trough. I liked both the story itself and the way it was written. In my view, the execution and the ending were both flawless. Murdoch just has a way of everything falling into place. It is more than attention to detail. It is more than intellect, it goes beyond being smart. It is more than being a good interpreter of human psychology or knowing just how people’s brain work. It is writing, it is as much about letting go as it is about staying focused. It is talent. It is a definitive writing talent, one you can feel in your bones. It is not so much about interpretation of human psychology as it is a view into our souls. That is truly rare.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: The quiet life of schoolmaster Bill Mor and his wife Nan is disturbed when a young woman, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. The setting is St. Bride's, described as a sound and reputable public school of the second class. The senior master, Bill Mor, is writing a work on the nature of political concepts. He is one of those dangerously good men dedicated to the truth. His wife, Nan, has a more sceptical nature, but she too is dedicated to an a Description: The quiet life of schoolmaster Bill Mor and his wife Nan is disturbed when a young woman, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. The setting is St. Bride's, described as a sound and reputable public school of the second class. The senior master, Bill Mor, is writing a work on the nature of political concepts. He is one of those dangerously good men dedicated to the truth. His wife, Nan, has a more sceptical nature, but she too is dedicated to an abstraction - the idea of marriage. They have two adolescent children. There are tensions, but everything is in control until Rain Carter, a young artist, appears on the scene. Her presence has an electrifying and disastrous effect. The whole seemingly solid structure of the Mors' world is found to be precarious, for when Mor falls desperately in love with Rain Carter the collapse of their family life seems inevitable. In the end patterns of order at least are restored; externally tragedy has been avoided, at whatever hidden cost. Miss Murdoch has written a masterpiece of high comedy, but it continues to haunt the mind. A tideless sea. I can recall, as a child, seeing pictures in English children's books of boys and girls playing on the sand and making sandcastles - I tried to play on my sand. But a mediterranean beach is not for playing on. It is dirty and very dry. The tides never wash the sand or make it firm. When I tried to make a sandcastle, the sand would just run away between my fingers. It would mislead others if I give this 4* as the plot is very thin, however, I thoroughly enjoyed Mor and Rain's angst. The symbolism is hob-nailed in at the denouement, yet the descriptive writing is sublime: Murdoch seems to of had the knack of writing so naturally, chatily. 3* Under the Net (1954) 3* The Flight from the Enchanter (1956) 3* The Sandcastle (1957) 5* The Bell (1958) WL The Unicorn(1963) O An Unofficial Rose (1962) TR The Nice and the Good (1968) 5* A Severed Head(1971) 5* The Black Prince(1973) 5* The Sacred and Profane Love Machine(1974) 5* A Word Child(1978) 5* The Sea, the Sea (1978) 4* Existentialists and Mystics Writings on Philosophy and Literature 4* Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    My mother read a couple of Murdoch books but never continued with this author because, as she put it, she found her work a bit too 'somber'. She also said that I would probably like them because I'm somber too. I suspect what she was referring too was Murdoch's implacable insight - a quality which, as an online acquaintance puts it, is downright preternatural at times. Murdoch is uncompromising in her meticulous, scrupulous characterisations, presenting people as realistic and complex. It would My mother read a couple of Murdoch books but never continued with this author because, as she put it, she found her work a bit too 'somber'. She also said that I would probably like them because I'm somber too. I suspect what she was referring too was Murdoch's implacable insight - a quality which, as an online acquaintance puts it, is downright preternatural at times. Murdoch is uncompromising in her meticulous, scrupulous characterisations, presenting people as realistic and complex. It would have been easy for her to round off the edges of a basically sympathetic character or to pile on a more inimical characters' bad points, but Murdoch does neither. It is almost as if these are real people and she is painting an accurate, unweighted portrait of them. So many fine things to treasure, so many memorable scenes and motifs, it's hard to summarise and I won't. This is a novel that has clear roots in the late 19th century tradition of realist, emotionally engaged, socially aware novels and yet is in itself fresh and gripping. Not somber but rigorous and therefore as exhausting as it is exhaustive and satisfying.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: I forgot to mention this--Iris Murdoch's books are anything BUT cute or sentimental. ***************************** Why do I consistently enjoy Iris Murdoch’s books? Her books keep my head busy; they provide food for thought. I enjoy analyzing why her characters behave as they do. Understanding how people communicate and relate to each other fascinates me. This is what is served up here! Murdoch is an expert at drawing relationships. This story revolves around a middle-aged couple, Bill and Nan ETA: I forgot to mention this--Iris Murdoch's books are anything BUT cute or sentimental. ***************************** Why do I consistently enjoy Iris Murdoch’s books? Her books keep my head busy; they provide food for thought. I enjoy analyzing why her characters behave as they do. Understanding how people communicate and relate to each other fascinates me. This is what is served up here! Murdoch is an expert at drawing relationships. This story revolves around a middle-aged couple, Bill and Nan Mor. They have two teenage kids. The father is a housemaster at a boarding school. This is not a story about the abuse of kids in boarding schools. What a relief! St. Bride's, where Bill lives and teaches, is exemplary, a school where you would feel calm to send your kids. The focus is instead on personal relationships--existing between Bill and Nan and their kids, between them and a close friend trying to push Bill into a more active participation in politics and between Bill and others at the school. St. Bride’s headmaster, Demoyte, has retired. A new one has taken his place. To paint a portrait of Demoyte, a young artist has been hired. Her name is Rain Carter. We observe how Rain’s presence jolts the uneasy balance that had existed between Bill and Nan. The characters are few in number, but each is studied in depth. What caught my attention? What did I find interesting to observe? We are told early on that of the couple, Nan is the stronger of the two. Bill seems closer to the kids, more involved in their lives. Observing how Nan gets her way intrigued me. Rather than talking and fussing and complaining, she makes a plan, a plan that requires her to behave in a not so nice way, but it will definitely work. You wonder if it’s good how things turn out. Ultimately, you think about the value of holding a family together versus following your dreams. What is best over the long run? What is the best means of getting your way? There are of course no definitive answers. These are decisions we all grapple with. First, we study the characters to decipher who they are. Then it is up to us to figure out if we think the choices they have made have been right. Art is another topic of the book. Does a painting reveal information not only about that which is portrayed but also about the artist who has painted it? This is proposed. Do we agree or not? If a portrait painting is to be really good, is it not necessary for the artist to know the subject well? How does one capture their essence? What is visible to the eye is often not enough. In the story there is an art professor, by the name of Bledyard. When he opens his mouth, pay attention! As the book nears its end you marvel at how well you know the characters. At the fancy celebratory dinner to bid farewell to the old headmaster, to welcome in the new headmaster and to present Rain’s paining, we are given these words, “Each man protected himself from boredom after his own fashion—Sir Leopold by drinking and looking sideways into the top of Nan’s dress, Rain by suppressed laughter, Demoyte by bemused contempt, Mr. Pruit by talking to his neighbor and Bledyard by talking to himself.” Here is described what we now know these characters would do. In addition, do you see the humor? Have you not been at dinner parties where nobody wants to be there, where that which is required is to put on a front, where it is necessary to pretend those whom you actually dislike are friends?! In every instance Murdoch draws characters true to life. She understands how people relate to each other and has the ability to get this across in words. Murdoch aces in drawing relationships and characters that are real! The story has a good ending and the title is a metaphor that becomes clear when the book is read. An imprint in dry sand leaves no lasting impression. Dry sand sifts through one’s fingers; it cannot be grasped. Juliet Aubrey narrates the audiobook wonderfully. She uses perfect intonations for each character. She modifies her speed to fit the action taking place and the circumstances described. Her narration I have given five stars. It could not be improved. If you enjoy rapid narration you might want to increase the speed. Me? I want time to think through what characters say and do. ******************* *The Black Prince 4 stars *A Fairly Honourable Defeat 4 stars *The Sandcastle 4 stars *The Sea, The Sea 2 stars *Jackson's Dilemma 2 stars *The Good Apprentice TBR *The Message to the Planet TBR *The Bell TBR *The Unicorn TBR *The Time of the Angels TBR *The Flight from the Enchanter TBR

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniela

    In The Sandcastle Iris Murdoch takes on a small town where the community is centred around a school and its dependents. We have the teacher, the teacher's wife, the teacher's children. We have the current headmaster and the former headmaster. We have other pupils and other teachers. The only exception is the newcomer, a young woman who comes to paint the portrait of the former headmaster. As the odd one out, she's different, bringing the whiff of new life, other possibilities, with her. What amaz In The Sandcastle Iris Murdoch takes on a small town where the community is centred around a school and its dependents. We have the teacher, the teacher's wife, the teacher's children. We have the current headmaster and the former headmaster. We have other pupils and other teachers. The only exception is the newcomer, a young woman who comes to paint the portrait of the former headmaster. As the odd one out, she's different, bringing the whiff of new life, other possibilities, with her. What amazes me about Iris Murdoch is her command of scenes. She turns every small detail, every small scene into a momentous occasion. The banal and the everyday become extraordinary in her hands. She measures the tension just right, never too much, never too little. There's a moment where the teacher's wife discovers the teacher with the young painter: Murdoch writes this scene with such simplicity and ease that everything we d'be been fearing for the past 50 pages just happens and still we're left wondering why we worried so much to begin with: there's nothing to fear from life. Do yourself a favour: read Iris Murdoch.

  8. 4 out of 5

    June Louise

    This is the first Iris Murdoch book I have read and I know it will not be the last. One word sums up The Sandcastle to me, and that word is WOW!! Loved it, loved it, loved it! Set around a boy's school and its staff, we meet Mor, his rather forceful wife, Nan, and their two teenage offspring, Don and Felicity. This seems to be quite a dysfunctional family in a way, especially Felicity who believes she has a special "gift". Then enters into the story some of the school staff, Revvy Evvy, Demoyte, This is the first Iris Murdoch book I have read and I know it will not be the last. One word sums up The Sandcastle to me, and that word is WOW!! Loved it, loved it, loved it! Set around a boy's school and its staff, we meet Mor, his rather forceful wife, Nan, and their two teenage offspring, Don and Felicity. This seems to be quite a dysfunctional family in a way, especially Felicity who believes she has a special "gift". Then enters into the story some of the school staff, Revvy Evvy, Demoyte, Hensman and the stuttering art master, Bledyard. Finally there is Rain, the artist who has been commissioned to paint the portrait of Demoyte, and who stirs things up amid St Bride's school at the same time. I didn't find this book particulary sombre, but a real page-turner. I loved the characters, loved some of the comic moments of the story, loved the plot and loved the suspense. And who really was that gypsy tramp? Would highly recommend, especially if, like me, this is your first encounter with Iris Murdoch.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I cannot recall how many Iris Murdoch books I have read. They have all been amazing, and it has taken quite a bit of self-restraint to resist reading each and every one of her books, one after the other. But I have thus far succeeded because I like to space out the goodness. The Sandcastle is a brief and straightforward novel about a family man who is unhappy with his marriage, and drawn toward a much younger woman who shows up in town for a spell. What I appreciated most about the book is the hu I cannot recall how many Iris Murdoch books I have read. They have all been amazing, and it has taken quite a bit of self-restraint to resist reading each and every one of her books, one after the other. But I have thus far succeeded because I like to space out the goodness. The Sandcastle is a brief and straightforward novel about a family man who is unhappy with his marriage, and drawn toward a much younger woman who shows up in town for a spell. What I appreciated most about the book is the huge number of well drawn out characters. Not just the man, his (irritating!) wife and his would-be mistress, but also his children, their classmates, and the colleagues where he teaches. Even the minor characters are believable, and interesting, and I ended up caring what happened to each and every one of them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Another "tour de force" by one of my favorite authors. 4* Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 5* Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch 5* Iris Murdoch: Dream Girl 4* A Severed Head 4* The Sea, the Sea 4* The Black Prince 4* The Bell 3* Under the Net 3* The Italian Girl 4* The Sandcastle TR The Sacred and Profane Love Machine TR A Fairly Honourable Defeat TR The Nice and the Good TR The Philosopher's Pupil TR The Good Apprentice TR The Red and the Green

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elena Sala

    THE SANDCASTLE (1957), unlike Iris Murdoch's first two novels, has a romantic storyline. Bill Mor, a middle-aged schoolmaster and his wife Nan have been married for many years but their marriage has been floundering for some time. Suddenly, a cool young artist, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. Mor and Rain fall in love and they begin a chaste affair. There are, of course, moral complications. There is Nan to consider, and their two teenage children, nev THE SANDCASTLE (1957), unlike Iris Murdoch's first two novels, has a romantic storyline. Bill Mor, a middle-aged schoolmaster and his wife Nan have been married for many years but their marriage has been floundering for some time. Suddenly, a cool young artist, Rain Carter, arrives at the school to paint the portrait of the headmaster. Mor and Rain fall in love and they begin a chaste affair. There are, of course, moral complications. There is Nan to consider, and their two teenage children, nevertheless, Mor contemplates deserting them. THE SANDCASTLE explores the connection between truth and moral virtue while it delves into subjects like art and politics, love and loyalty, creativity and selflessness. It is a light novel (by Murdoch's standards), with a predictable ending, however it is an engaging and entertaining place to start reading Murdoch, for readers so inclined. 3.5 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Viktorija

    After all, he thought, I can be guided by this. Let me only make clear what I gain, and what I destroy. My very first Murdoch exceeded all my expectations. I frankly hardly know where to start, or even what I want to say. Funny, suspenseful, a loud, relentless hymn of creation and destruction. Rarely does one see such brilliant harmony between plot, character development, and hard work on developing the underlying themes. (The word "themes", naturally, said in Stephen Fry's voice) There are so man After all, he thought, I can be guided by this. Let me only make clear what I gain, and what I destroy. My very first Murdoch exceeded all my expectations. I frankly hardly know where to start, or even what I want to say. Funny, suspenseful, a loud, relentless hymn of creation and destruction. Rarely does one see such brilliant harmony between plot, character development, and hard work on developing the underlying themes. (The word "themes", naturally, said in Stephen Fry's voice) There are so many things, subtle and not so subtle, that contribute to the way the story is put together perfectly...it feels like an extremely human, emotional text and an arcane treatise on wishing impossible things, both at the same time. In this way the book is much like a painting itself. I thought of the plot as a bit of a landslide - the worlds of adults, of children, the private and the public, rolling, sliding towards the point of no return, colliding, changing. Perhaps it is rather that we feel our own face, as a three-dimensional mass, from within - and when we try in a painting to realize what another person's face is, we come back to the experience of our own. Art and its creation (the debate on how to paint a face) are juxtaposed with the forces that make and break the life of the individual (how to treat other people, love, religion, scruples). Rain is to leave after she finishes the portrait - so decisions are to be made on both counts. Just like the commissioned portrait must be finished, so must the protagonists decide how they are to leave the stage and how much they are prepared to leave behind. Beautiful, descriptive, thrilling - a stroke of genius.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    My favorite Murdoch so far. There was an incessant current of vitality in the novel, even the henpecked and the discarded found itself surged and embraced. That's a feat in itself.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)

    Yuck. I didn’t even need to read 10 pages before I wanted to throw the book across the room. Awkwardly expressed ideas promenading around as one-dimensional characters. No thank you. Nope.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Interesting story for Murdoch. Mor is a teacher and housemaster at St Bride's school. His wife Nan is a carping, controlling woman who has beaten her husband down with a superior attitude. They have a teenage son who attends St Bride's and a pubescent daughter at another private school. Because I have read Harry Potter, I am familiar with this English school scene. A young female painter arrives at St Bride's where she has been commissioned to paint the portrait of the former headmaster. Mor fa Interesting story for Murdoch. Mor is a teacher and housemaster at St Bride's school. His wife Nan is a carping, controlling woman who has beaten her husband down with a superior attitude. They have a teenage son who attends St Bride's and a pubescent daughter at another private school. Because I have read Harry Potter, I am familiar with this English school scene. A young female painter arrives at St Bride's where she has been commissioned to paint the portrait of the former headmaster. Mor falls in love with her, wants to throw away his marriage, and Nan must find a way to hold on to him. Because this is Iris Murdoch, there are plenty of hilarious, silly, and nail-biting scenes. I hadn't quite noticed this before in her novels, but I see it now. Murdoch is no feminist. She is as hard on her female characters as she is on the men. She finds the absurdity in any human endeavor and tromps hard. But she also makes it clear how dearly we all hold to our purposes and our ways of life. I am just blundering along in my reading of mid twentieth century English literature by women and so just beginning to glimpse what is going on. The major similarity I see between them (Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, etc.) is a dedicated attempt to use intellect and philosophy as a means of going more deeply into human relations. To my thinking, that is a worthy aim.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    So much of what happens that is significant in this story (as in life) takes place in the minds of its characters in response to seemingly insignificant minutae. Murdoch has an amazing ability to capture the subtle shifts in thought or feeling which trigger an avalanche of responses from ourselves and from others. Which is not to say that the story is uneventful or merely cerebral. I like also how supernatural elements are suggested throughout, but gently, giving you the sense that there is some So much of what happens that is significant in this story (as in life) takes place in the minds of its characters in response to seemingly insignificant minutae. Murdoch has an amazing ability to capture the subtle shifts in thought or feeling which trigger an avalanche of responses from ourselves and from others. Which is not to say that the story is uneventful or merely cerebral. I like also how supernatural elements are suggested throughout, but gently, giving you the sense that there is something larger at work here while allowing you to preoccupy yourself with the intricacies of the human condition, as they play themselves out in the novel. Ultimately this is a very honest, human book. About characters not unlike ourselves who are genuinely doing their best to be good folks and make a coherent life out of life's strange materials. They don't always succeed, depending on how you judge it, but then neither do we.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    All that Muriel Spark was somehow the appetizer to the four Murdoch's currently in my queue - don't you think Murdoch (or Margaret Drabble for that matter) are more deserving of the Nobel than Doris Lessing? Finished this - a good 'un! - a pretty standard Murdoch plot in which one half (often it's both) of a long-married couple with teenage children gets distracted - the affair is tempestuous but doomed, drama is injected by one of the children getting into some life-threatening scrape (I'm serio All that Muriel Spark was somehow the appetizer to the four Murdoch's currently in my queue - don't you think Murdoch (or Margaret Drabble for that matter) are more deserving of the Nobel than Doris Lessing? Finished this - a good 'un! - a pretty standard Murdoch plot in which one half (often it's both) of a long-married couple with teenage children gets distracted - the affair is tempestuous but doomed, drama is injected by one of the children getting into some life-threatening scrape (I'm serious - I've seen all this in at least one other of her books) - everything works out not necessarily for the best but at least resolved.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ben Loory

    iris murdoch continues to dazzle... still don't know how she does it... this is probably the "normalest" of the books of hers i've read-- it's almost completely "realistic"-- and yet somehow it too seems to glow from within with mystery and fantasy and hallucinatory detail and feeling and metaphysical import... love iris murdoch more than ever... i feel like i live her books more than read them...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Loretta

    Another very satisfying Murdoch read, for me. She captures the complexity and contradictions inherent in human nature and human relationships. I liked it a lot.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meg Marie

    I feel like this book was very British, and very 1960s style - a lot of words and details, not a lot of dialogue, VERY little action. Not my favorite style, personally.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Booklovinglady

    Read the book for the first time for my secondary school exams, early in 1982. Bought a copy some years later and read it again, as I really liked it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    I really liked this--it is my favorite of the three of her books that I've read or re-read so far. As the cover of the book says very accurately, it is about "the conflict between love and loyalty." Well, perhaps I would complicate that a bit. I'm not giving anything away (it is on the back cover description of the book) to say that the protagonist has to choose between his powerful love for a young painter and his loyalty to his family. What complicates the book description I mentioned is that I really liked this--it is my favorite of the three of her books that I've read or re-read so far. As the cover of the book says very accurately, it is about "the conflict between love and loyalty." Well, perhaps I would complicate that a bit. I'm not giving anything away (it is on the back cover description of the book) to say that the protagonist has to choose between his powerful love for a young painter and his loyalty to his family. What complicates the book description I mentioned is that he also feels a profound love for his children if not for his nagging, belittling wife. Someone is going to get hurt no matter what choice he makes. But the end, manages, at least for me, to have a life-affirming quality. Since I so often find her books depressing, this was unexpected. Perhaps it was simply the mood I was in when I read it. I won't know until I re-read it in 10 years. :-) 5/09

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This is my third novel by Iris Murdoch, and probably the one I like the most. This may be because I don't remember the other books(Brunos Dream, the other title escapes me) except that I liked them. This novel is the story of Mor, a teacher in a private school married to a controlling wife, Nan. Without giving to much away, Mor ends up in a situation where he can start his life over with a younger women, Rain, or pursue his dreams within the confines of his marriage. This novel (one of Murdochs This is my third novel by Iris Murdoch, and probably the one I like the most. This may be because I don't remember the other books(Brunos Dream, the other title escapes me) except that I liked them. This novel is the story of Mor, a teacher in a private school married to a controlling wife, Nan. Without giving to much away, Mor ends up in a situation where he can start his life over with a younger women, Rain, or pursue his dreams within the confines of his marriage. This novel (one of Murdochs early works) is nicely paced, funny at times, and has a nice edge of your seat ending. Theres an odd bit of what I guess you would call Magical Realism, which comes off a little clunky, though I still found it facinating.

  24. 4 out of 5

    dead letter office

    I love Iris Murdoch. This is the fourth book I've read by her and the fourth one in which a swimming scene figures prominently. This time everything turns around Rain's swim in the river (not, as Felicity would have had it, around the ceremony on the rocks or the climb on the tower). On a separate note, here is a list of books in which cars sink in rivers: Gallatin Canyon, The Love of a Good Woman, The Sandcastle. Let me know if I have missed any. I love Iris Murdoch. This is the fourth book I've read by her and the fourth one in which a swimming scene figures prominently. This time everything turns around Rain's swim in the river (not, as Felicity would have had it, around the ceremony on the rocks or the climb on the tower). On a separate note, here is a list of books in which cars sink in rivers: Gallatin Canyon, The Love of a Good Woman, The Sandcastle. Let me know if I have missed any.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Hunt

    I am always positive about Iris Murdoch's books simply because of the detailed character descriptions, insight into motivation and clever storytelling. The prologue to the edition I read said there was very little to tie the title to the actual story except with reference to the Bible passage about the man who built his house on the sand and saw it washed away. The book is a tender portrayal of a man whose life has become dull and who rediscovers his own capacity for love through an artist and h I am always positive about Iris Murdoch's books simply because of the detailed character descriptions, insight into motivation and clever storytelling. The prologue to the edition I read said there was very little to tie the title to the actual story except with reference to the Bible passage about the man who built his house on the sand and saw it washed away. The book is a tender portrayal of a man whose life has become dull and who rediscovers his own capacity for love through an artist and her art. Memorable in its word pictures, if not in its plot.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Iris Murdoch's third published novel is a fascinating about the relationship between a married school master and a young woman who arrives to paint the portrait of the retired headmaster. A more domestic, and mature work than the previous two novels.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Reichenbaugh

    An early novel by Iris Murdoch. I've enjoyed all of the novels by her that I've read so far, including this one. It's a pretty standard setup as far as plots go. The stolid husband and father meets a young and exiting artist type and falls hard for her. Will he chuck his family for her? I think the bigger question is why do exciting young artsy type women go for boring old schoolmaster types. It's kind of a fairy tale for men. Considering Bill is not the only middle-aged school teacher smitten w An early novel by Iris Murdoch. I've enjoyed all of the novels by her that I've read so far, including this one. It's a pretty standard setup as far as plots go. The stolid husband and father meets a young and exiting artist type and falls hard for her. Will he chuck his family for her? I think the bigger question is why do exciting young artsy type women go for boring old schoolmaster types. It's kind of a fairy tale for men. Considering Bill is not the only middle-aged school teacher smitten with Rain, he's got competition. Not as weird a novel as The Severed Head, written close to this one. But Bill's teenage daughter Felicity is pretty weird and adds some nice flavor to the mix. Also, I liked Bill's wife Nan more than I did Rain. Go figure.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This is really more worthy of a 3 1/2 star rating, in my opinion. In the very simple lives of ordinary people, with mundane English village lifestyles of honorable participants, there can emerge the most tormenting, unsolvable desires that can never be fulfilled, and one must just continue to endure, while all that promises happiness and contentment is lost just like the weak foundation of a sandcastle. Murdoch was a genius, and she portrayed all the psychological torment along with detailed, ste This is really more worthy of a 3 1/2 star rating, in my opinion. In the very simple lives of ordinary people, with mundane English village lifestyles of honorable participants, there can emerge the most tormenting, unsolvable desires that can never be fulfilled, and one must just continue to endure, while all that promises happiness and contentment is lost just like the weak foundation of a sandcastle. Murdoch was a genius, and she portrayed all the psychological torment along with detailed, step-by-step portrayal of actions and happenings, some of which were coincidental. The best one which comes to my mind was the absurd scene where the art teacher at the boys' public (in the US we would use the term "prep") school and the ridiculous behavior of all the multi-aged student residents who were inattentive and loud in grand style. It was a slide presentation, and she captured the essence of the students' disregard and loud misbehavior. Let me just say, in my life experience, I have been at such occsions, and she captured the actions accurately. What kept me from ranking this book higher was not really the fault of the author: in some ways, it does not stand the test of time, since it was published 50 years or so ago, I think, and society's morals have changed so much. For example, the unfaithful husband had chosen not to consumate his love with the young woman who loves him too; this was stated very eloquently by the author, and never mentioned again. For we 21st. century readers, it was an OK concept as I tire of the recapitualtions of the wet kisses and other details, but it can cause a disbelief in one who might prefer such (and I don't) as we often read today. For those of us who search out all forms of British drama on PBS and the like, it was pleasing and entertaining. I need to read more of Murdoch's books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I have never read a book which details the hopes and despair of an ill-conceived affair so well, but without romanticising it in the slightest. The plot describes the ageing academic, Mor, and his brilliantly infuriating wife, Nan, in the power struggle of their largely loveless marriage. When Mor accidentally falls in love with a vivacious and youthful artist called Rain, his entire life is thrown into turmoil as he suddenly discovers happiness and way to exist in his own right. Though Murdoch I have never read a book which details the hopes and despair of an ill-conceived affair so well, but without romanticising it in the slightest. The plot describes the ageing academic, Mor, and his brilliantly infuriating wife, Nan, in the power struggle of their largely loveless marriage. When Mor accidentally falls in love with a vivacious and youthful artist called Rain, his entire life is thrown into turmoil as he suddenly discovers happiness and way to exist in his own right. Though Murdoch paints every character's feelings sensitively and with an unabashed honesty, she in no way glorifies infidelity, which is such a risk when dealing with this issue. Instead, she presents a very honest picture of the many issues which tear a family apart. The Sandcastle is both heart wrenching and infuriating, but much like these situations in real life (I suppose), expect no ultimate happy ending!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Yulia

    I've recently reread this book for the Home Reading class that I'm teaching and I was yet again reminded of how amazingly beautiful and incredibly symbolic it is. Seriously, this book is teeming with symbols of all kinds imaginable! I remember not particularly liking it back then, in my third year, but that was because reading it (and discussing every single detail, even (seemingly) insignificant ones) was a must and because the language was perhaps a bit too sophisticated to me then, but now I I've recently reread this book for the Home Reading class that I'm teaching and I was yet again reminded of how amazingly beautiful and incredibly symbolic it is. Seriously, this book is teeming with symbols of all kinds imaginable! I remember not particularly liking it back then, in my third year, but that was because reading it (and discussing every single detail, even (seemingly) insignificant ones) was a must and because the language was perhaps a bit too sophisticated to me then, but now I enjoyed it immensely. Even though it's extremely depressing, which is a thing that - in most cases - always puts me off reading. :/

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