The Sandcastle

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The Sandcastle

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1sibylline
Edited: Apr 1, 2013, 4:27pm

I imagine there will be swimming in this one.....

2sibylline
Edited: Aug 20, 2014, 7:20pm

So far I am finding this one engaging, very much so - Mor is a schoolmaster at St. Bride's a boy's school not too far from London as you can see the lights of the city at night. He is married to Nan and they have two children Donald and Felicity. We see husband and wife first, alone together having lunch - Mor placating, Nan bossy - but it is, of course, a more complex relationship than it might first appear, and even in those few pages you get a sense of the back and forth of their long marriage. They go to dinner at the house of the retired headmaster, Demoyte and there they also meet Rain Carter who is to paint Demoyte's portrait. Demoyte's house, Bishop's Close, is the 'house' that will loom large ... I have a picture of it in my head and spent some time on IM's description of it, inside and out. It is clearly a lovely embracing house. And Rain is clearly going to be trouble.

I posted this on my 75 thread, but I loved this passage enough to post it here too.:

Demoyte's books were all behind glass, so that the room was full of reflections. Demoyte was a connoisseur of books. Mor, who was not, had long ago been barred from the library. Mor liked to tear a book apart as he read it, breaking the back, thumbing and turning down the pages, commenting and underlining. He liked to have his books close to him, upon a table, upon the floor, at least upon open shelves. Seeing the so near and so destroyed, he could feel that they were now almost inside his head. Demoyte's books seemed a different kind of entity. Yet he liked to see them too, elegant, stiff and spotless, gilded and calved, books to be gently held in the hand and admired, and which recalled to mind the fact of which Mor was usually oblivious that a book is a thing and not just a collection of thoughts.

3sibylline
Apr 12, 2013, 8:08pm

At last a Murdoch novel where I like and empathize with virtually all the characters. I am, finally, back to reading li'tratchur after a couple of weeks of total self-indulgence in the reading department. I can see a disaster looming on the horizon, am already cringing for poor old Mor in his innocent clumsiness.

4sibylline
Edited: Apr 13, 2013, 1:48pm

I'm closing in on being done - mainly because this morning I could not put the book down - literal cliff hanger. I love this book, Bill Mor is a wonderful and real person to me - all the mix of goodness and frailty that is authentic. I can see this as a movie - Billy Nighy as Bill Mor (only he is a tad too old now for the part, but he could play the retired headmaster equally well, perhaps better - I'm sure there are other possible actors to play Mor, but I can't think of them at the moment.), Emma Thompson as his wife, and Helena Bonham Carter as the painter Rain Carter. The book seems 'cinematic friendly' to me, very tight, very visual. I've had to stop many times to picture things exactly as IM describes them.

5sibylline
Edited: Apr 13, 2013, 4:02pm

Here is the review I've posted. I should add - this is likely (at least for now) to be the novel I recommend a reader start with.

Is it that I am 'getting' Iris Murdoch, or is it that I am (accidentally) choosing novels that I like better? It hardly matters, but I found this one hard to put down. It's hot, early summer and a young woman, already known as an accomplished painter, comes to do the portrait of the lately retired headmaster of St. Bride's, Demoyte. Bill Mor, a schoolmaster (and clearly one of the good ones) is among the first invited to meet her and they have an odd an intense encounter at Demoyte's house, Brayling Close, - which is as always to be found in an IM novel - a remarkable and beautiful house. They fall madly in love - for Mor a world of possibility is opened, a world he never imagined. He has always been dominated by his wife, a strong shrewd woman, and he sees now that he could break out.... so will he? He has two children that he misunderstands, a good friend that he doesn't know as well as he thinks he does, in fact Mor lives in a kind of fog, that lifts under the influence of the young painter (interestingly named Rain Carter). Everything comes to a head in the last quarter of the book and for me it was vivid and unputdownable. I'm rating it highly as I feel that every aspect of what goes into a good novel is at a high level, theme, character, momentum - there is also that hint of mystery - done with a very light hand here. The 'question' under consideration is when is love, especially 'being in love' not enough? Another question is what 'face' do we present to the world? Our real one or the one we wish it was? Yet another, can we read, in our own action or inaction, our true wishes, our true natures? I should also add that there was a good deal of humor - the boys at the school are lovingly described, as are the master ept and inept alike, the new headmaster is a worthy man but cheap and clumsy and this leads to farce upon occasion. I laughed out loud several times and chuckled many others. *****

6sibylline
Edited: Apr 13, 2013, 4:00pm

Here are some quotes I liked:
Whereas the real teacher cares only for one thing, that the matter should be understood; and into that process he vanishes.

Eccentric people, he concluded, were good for conventional people, simply because they made them able to conceive of everything being quite different.

Who is worthy to understand another person?

Very distantly the traffic rumbled upon the main road. But here the silence hung in the air like an odour.

"You can't behave anyhow to people and expect them to love you just the same!" said Nan to Felicity.
"That's just what I do expect," said Felicity, sulkily, and went back into her badroom.
Mor, overhearing this exchange from downstairs, though, she is right, that is just what we do expect."


The real pain after all was not that the world had fallen into little pieces. That was a relief from pain. It was rather that the world remained, whole, ordinary, and relentlessly to be lived in.

In ordinary life all her talk with Bill was planed down into simple familiarly recurring units. Any conversation which she might have with him was of so familiar a type that they might have talked it in their sleep. This was one of the things that made marriage so restful. But from now on all speech between them would have to be invented.

The curtains were pulled in Demoyte's bedroom. Their faded colourless lining closed the window like a dead eye-lid.

7labwriter
Apr 14, 2013, 11:42pm

What you have to say about the novel is interesting, and I'm sorry not to be able to add anything of substance, since I haven't read this one, nor have I read many of the others. This was an early novel (1956, I think). So do you see any correlation between liking this novel better than others of hers and the fact that it was an earlier effort?

8LyzzyBee
Apr 15, 2013, 2:13am

Some of the earlier ones are seen as "easier" and they're definitely shorter, but this one to me still has all the Murdochian elements - gender-swapping, essays on Art and Philosophy. marriages, weird siblings ... Actually her first, Under the Net, can be a little offputting with its slabs of philosophy. But I'll be interested to see how other people respond to that question.

9rainpebble
Edited: Apr 15, 2013, 6:37am

Ohhhh; doesn't sound too good to me as Under the Net is the next Murdoch for me. Don't know when that may be.......am hoping this month but time is getting away from me. R/L has really cut into my reading time and frame of mind.
I really like your insight into her books Lucy. Much appreciated and many thanx; you too Liz.
So far I have only read two of hers this year but I came to the group late I think. I first read Henry and Cato and then Something Special: A Story; a lovely little novella. I am still hoping to be able to get to one a month or one every two months.
I have really enjoyed the interaction within this group but I find it sad that there are no more of us than are here. Iris is such a worthy 'opponent'.

10sibylline
Edited: Apr 15, 2013, 6:50am

Another thing I've noticed is that it is usually summer and hot for some largish portion of the story - so there can be swimming, of course, but I think too the sensual quality of summer is what IM associates with romantic goings on.

The children didn't seem all that weird to me (I wonder if I should worry?!!!), and I thought that her handling of Mor's relationship to his son throughout was excellent.

I was, in fact, a weird kid.....

I liked the sermons, talks etc. in here and was impressed with how Iris wove them in.

Thank you Belva.

11labwriter
Edited: Apr 15, 2013, 9:40am

I wasn't implying in #7 that The Sandcastle was "easier" (and therefore more likeable) than her other work--merely different, as in, her earlier stuff is different from her later stuff--just my opinion, naturally. And so, I was asking, is there a correlation between what you like and what part of her oeuvre a particular book falls into?? Maybe you find no correlation at all--I was merely curious.

12sibylline
Apr 15, 2013, 10:09am

I haven't read enough yet - no late ones, I don't think. It'll be interesting to see what pattern emerges.

13LyzzyBee
Apr 15, 2013, 10:09am

I have come across people thinking the shorter, earlier ones are simpler and more "easy" but don't worry, Belva, Under the Net is very engaging, I have just heard of people thinking oh it's the first one and it got her associated with the Angry Young Men (never sure why) movement, but then get stuck on the philosophy. It's very readable, though.

Regarding the oeuvre as a whole, I was interested to find that my favourites fall across the spectrum - A Severed Head, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, The Philosopher's Pupil, The Book and the Brotherhood and The Green Knight being three particular favourites. My two least favourites, An Unofficial Rose and Bruno's Dream are fairly mid-period though. Not sure what that says, really! I do like The Sandcastle too, actually ...

14sibylline
Apr 15, 2013, 10:18am

I haven't read the bio yet, but I'm gleaning IM had 'good' friends and somewhat 'evil' friends like Cannetti - I wonder if her novels vary according to which sort of person she is thinking about. Bill Mor is a good man essentially, who has simply never had to make any 'difficult' choices - for me that was a more sympathetic situation than a story about a famous egotistical old actor/director in a snitty funk about himself.

15labwriter
Apr 15, 2013, 10:48am

>14 sibylline:. I think that's very insightful, Sib.

16tommi180744
Edited: Mar 15, 2020, 6:49am

I just want to state categorically: The Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch is THE most tedious, pointless trivial read it has ever been my misfortune to come across. Ms Murdoch is justly legendary for some inspirational, intriguing tomes, but how this Sandcastle ever got to print I shall never understand: If ever there were a genuine 'much vocabulary' about nothing at all then this book is it. The characters are so weak, so utterly without 'cause' to be alive as persons on a page I do wonder if it was Murdoch's intent to have them all bore to the extent they leave no trace at all. I read critiques praising the novel's underlying tones and literary references, however, none of that either makes up for or excuses the overall impression of a book that was begun without purpose and was completed in like manner.

17sibylline
Aug 20, 2014, 8:01pm

> 16 If there is one thing I've learned about books, especially by writers at Murdoch's level, it's that taste for one book over another, is similar to a food like and dislike, mysterious and ultimately not all that important. For you the book was no good. You. Just. You. The only thing I can't understand why you kept on reading it and worked yourself into such a dudgeon about it!

18tommi180744
Jan 4, 2015, 4:47pm

Hey! Sorry not to have replied until now.
I've been off the track for some while doing various things that left me reading, but not writing at all.
I never give up on a book - - no matter how tedious or tendentious - - I plough on to the very end.
Frankly, if we all were to take your line ("..why you kept on reading it..") then there would be only positive feedback/review on any tome as no one would complete something as challenging as a book such as Murdoch's 'The Sandcastle'.
I disagree re, "book was no good. You. Just. You.": I think a whole lot of people would find it equally dreary and dreadful prose: It was a stinker - - I've read widely over 60+ years and it ranks among the most pitiful contributions to literature I have ever had the displeasure to come across - - "writers at Murdoch's level", you say, well she fell well short with that early work and hats-off to the Agent who saw through such a literal and literary deluge of pompous insipidity to grasp there was a great talent in there somewhere (hidden deeper than anything I could divine).
PS: I love all foods and apart from an allergy to mashed potato (! yes, I know, weird!) I eat all foods and am pretty much the same with books, i.e. from Gorky's Mother to Toffler's Future Shock with Spike Milligan to Le Carre in between, so I do not feel I was in a dudgeon so much as confounded by some of the most appallingly trivialised word production I had ever come across.
Cheers, hope 2015 goes well for you!