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The Italian Girl (1964)

by Iris Murdoch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6122033,841 (3.29)1 / 45
A family struggles for redemption after a funeral brings dark secrets to the surface in this novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, The Sea.   For the first time in years, Edmund Narraway has returned to his childhood home--for the funeral of his mother. The visit rekindles feelings of affection and nostalgia--but also triggers a resurgence of the tensions that caused him to leave in the first place. As Edmund once again becomes entangled in his family's web of corrosive secrets, his homecoming tips a precariously balanced dynamic into sudden chaos, in this compelling story of reunion and coming apart from Iris Murdoch, "one of the most significant novelists of her generation" (The Guardian).  … (more)
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 Iris Murdoch readers: The Italian Girl1 unread / 1sibylline, November 2015

» See also 45 mentions

English (18)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
As always the writing is excellent- though not as extraordinary as many of her other books. The characters seemed a bit recycled; Hugo from fairly honorable, Hilary from word child... I enjoyed the read but it didn’t touch my core to the extent so many of Murdoch’s works have. Edmund just seems so lost and yet central, and didn’t fill in the void he needed to. ( )
  PeterVize | Dec 2, 2022 |
Almost the first thing I learned in English 101 at Melbourne University, was that the English novel has its origins in morality plays. And with apologies to Proper Academics who know what they're talking about when it comes to Iris Murdoch, I reckon The Italian Girl is not one of IM's 'bad novels' as Kenneth Trodd would have it in the New Left Review from 1964. His review was paywalled, so I could only read a bit of it, sufficient to know that he took A Dim View of this novel, describing it as a genre between Green Penguins and old Gothic. I think that The Italian Girl has its origins in morality plays and a Shakespearean comedy of errors. The novel masquerades as melodrama and it's not meant to be realism. Rather, it uses a modern day quest for inheritance and identity to mask its framework of temptation, sin, resolution and reconciliation.

Some uncredited genius in the Penguin Design section came up with the front cover artwork featuring 'Eve' by the engraver Reynolds Stone. The narrator and central character in The Italian Girl is an engraver too, and it is surely no coincidence that Iris Murdoch's memorial address is quoted on the Reynolds Stone Biography page. Reynolds Stone's 'Eve' references Murdoch's allusion in The Italian Girl to the 12th century 'Eve' of Gislebertus, a sensuous sculpture from a cathedral portal in Autun in France. Of the original, only the 'Eve' fragment survives (in the Rodin Museum), but alabaster replicas show how the entire sculpture would have looked, showing Eve — with the serpent nearby — leading Adam into sin, representing both innocence and evil in one. (He looks more than ready to be tempted too, eh?)

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2022/11/05/the-italian-girl-by-iris-murdoch/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Nov 4, 2022 |
Protagonist Edmund returns to his family home in northern England for his mother’s funeral. He has been gone for many years, and at first thinks nothing much has changed. However, after speaking with his niece, he finds that the relationships among his relatives are much more complicated than expected. He soon finds himself embroiled in an unfolding family drama.

It harkens back to the gothic novels of the past, with the family’s mansion playing a significant role. The writing is atmospheric, projecting a dark and haunted impression, but avoiding supernatural elements. It is tightly focused, containing only six characters. The novel is named after one of the lesser prominent characters, the family’s long-time Italian servant. She floats around the fringes of the story, almost like a ghost. It contains an unreliable narrator and layered structure. It is not a traditional mystery by any stretch, but the family members’ secrets are eventually revealed.

I have now read three of Murdoch’s novels. My favorites are The Sea, The Sea, and The Black Prince. I liked this one but found the ending rather vague and unsatisfying.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Not the best of the Murdochs I have read, this feels like it rehashes some common themes (infidelity, entangled relationships, people thrown together in an isolated situation), but is a bit more slight than others I've read. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Feb 2, 2021 |
The characters are all annoyingly useless and flawed, react badly to every situation they've worked themselves into and make you despair for them. Far more realistic than anything else I've read recently.

If you can cope with the horrible people then it's an excellent book. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iris Murdochprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cole, JohnCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawkey, RonaldCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, GildartNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peccinotti, HarriCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schalekamp, Jean A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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To Patsy and John Grigg
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I pressed the door gently.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
'I think I know altogether what's going on in this house.' 'How?' 'People have loud voices. Everyone shouts a great deal here. Perhaps the pipes conduct the sound. I seem to hear everything in the kitchen.' She spoke with an extreme cat-like softness; it was the voice of the unseen observer, of the eternally silent superior servant.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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A family struggles for redemption after a funeral brings dark secrets to the surface in this novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, The Sea.   For the first time in years, Edmund Narraway has returned to his childhood home--for the funeral of his mother. The visit rekindles feelings of affection and nostalgia--but also triggers a resurgence of the tensions that caused him to leave in the first place. As Edmund once again becomes entangled in his family's web of corrosive secrets, his homecoming tips a precariously balanced dynamic into sudden chaos, in this compelling story of reunion and coming apart from Iris Murdoch, "one of the most significant novelists of her generation" (The Guardian).  

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Book description
Edmund has escaped from his family into a lonely life. Returning for his mother's funeral he rediscovers the eternal family servant, the ever-changing Italian girl, who was always 'a second mother'...
This particular return to mother holds some surprises for Edmond.
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Legacy Library: Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

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