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Henry and Cato by Iris Murdoch
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Henry and Cato (original 1976; edition 2013)

by Iris Murdoch (Author)

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480852,407 (3.65)2 / 33
Reunited childhood friends confront their longings and failures in this "engaging" novel by a Man Booker Prize-winning author (The New York Times).   As children growing up in the English countryside, Henry Marshalson and Cato Forbes were inseparable. But, as time went on, their lives took different paths. For Henry, whose older brother would inherit his father's estate, the United States called, with a professorship to teach art history, while Cato devoted himself to the Catholic priesthood and a mission in London. But when Henry's brother dies, leaving him sole heir to his family's vast estate, Henry and Cato find themselves connecting once more and reexamining the paths their lives have taken.   As Henry struggles to come to terms with his personal passions and family obligations, and Cato fights against his religious doubts and darker urges, both men find themselves entwined in a deadly intrigue that could ruin not only their lives but also the lives of those they hold dear.   A dizzying display of complex plotting, Henry and Cato was praised as "Murdoch's finest novel" by Joyce Carol Oates, a spectacular combination of thrilling action and moral philosophizing that will leave readers spellbound.  … (more)
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Title:Henry and Cato
Authors:Iris Murdoch (Author)
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Henry and Cato by Iris Murdoch (1976)

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 Iris Murdoch readers: Henry and Cato20 unread / 20LyzzyBee, February 2013
 Iris Murdoch readers: Henry Cato3 unread / 3rainpebble, January 2013

» See also 33 mentions

English (6)  Spanish (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Another Iris Murdoch book, with many of the usual themes - a curious collection of people fall in and out of love and get into some unlikely situations. There is a lot of hand-wringing about religion and loss of faith, as well as about an unexpected inheritance and the characters are on the whole quite an endearing bunch. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Apr 21, 2024 |
Takes about 2/3s of the book to get "good". But then takes off. The coda is a little long, but by that time the characters are so endearing you want to know what happens.
  charlie68 | Jul 3, 2019 |
There's never just one way to look at an Iris Murdoch novel. There are some wonderful conversations about religion here, as Murdoch finds beautifully elegant ways of expressing her contention that real faith requires a harsh, unadorned abandonment of personal pride. There are acute psychological studies of both love and cruelty. There are lovely descriptions of the English countryside and an argument against late modernism's attempt to force people into unnatural living spaces. And there's a bit of sex here, too. I don't think I've ever read a female writer who's so good at assuming the male gaze: seeing women the way that straight men do.

Really, everything I've ever read by Murdoch deserves a few readings, but since you can't focus on everything at once, I got particularly interested in what might be called a kind of theodicy that runs through "Henry and Cato." When the book starts both of the book's title characters are in their thirties, frustrated and morally adrift. They both seem to have trouble coping with the inequality and evil present in the world, and much of the book is concerned with following their unsuccessful efforts to cope psychologically with these these unpleasant realities. Some of these arguments seem dated by the fall of communism, but, as the world still contains plenty of nastiness and injustice, much of their sold-searching, while occasionally frantic and annoyingly self-centered, still rings true.

Of course, I wouldn't recommend any of Murdoch's books to readers who insist that the novels they read be realistic. Like her other books, "Henry and Cato" makes no real pretense at showing the world exactly as it is. But Murdoch's got that same talent that Evelyn Waugh had: the ability to create situations and characters that, while improbable in their specificities, seem to get at a larger truth. That's sort of out of fashion these days, but it's still the mark of real writing talent. And Iris Murdoch's talent is certainly on display here. Recommended to those who know what they're getting into. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Jun 12, 2018 |
Brilliant, complex, philosophical novel from the mid-70s. In some ways it echoes the standard “impotent middle-aged male academic” novels of the period, but, as you’d expect from Iris Murdoch, there’s a lot more to it than that. There's a lot about the troublesome asymmetry of relationships, about the way we are always prepared to close our eyes to blindingly obvious things about other people’s lives (especially men about women), about the seductive attraction of unhappiness, about the nature of religious experience, about how violence and bullying work, and much else besides. Very impressive. ( )
  thorold | Jun 12, 2013 |
Bought 1990s?

Another Murdoch that I think I read only the once, as I didn't remember much about it. Full of echoes of other novels, and the usual themes (surely EVERY novel in the world doesn't have an Irish person, a Jewish person, someone failing to write a book and someone with long red hair?) and a really interesting plot. ( )
  LyzzyBee | Feb 28, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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Dedication
To Stephen Gardiner
First words
In her 1970 essay 'Existentialists and Mystics' in which she discusses two types of novels and their heroes, Iris Murdoch says about the existentialist novel:
'We know this novel and its hero well. The story of a brave man, defiant without optimism, produ without pretension, always an exposer of shams, whose mode of being is a deep criticism of society. He is an adventurer. He is godless. He does not suffer from guilt. He thinks of himself as free. He may have faults, he may be self-assertive or even violent, but hs has sincerity and courage, and for this we forgive him, [...] He might do anything.' (Introduction)
Cato Forbes had already crossed Hungerford railway bridge three times, once from the north to the south, then from south to north, and again from north to south.
Quotations
So many dawns I was blind to. Now the illumination of night. Comes to me too late, O great teacher.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Reunited childhood friends confront their longings and failures in this "engaging" novel by a Man Booker Prize-winning author (The New York Times).   As children growing up in the English countryside, Henry Marshalson and Cato Forbes were inseparable. But, as time went on, their lives took different paths. For Henry, whose older brother would inherit his father's estate, the United States called, with a professorship to teach art history, while Cato devoted himself to the Catholic priesthood and a mission in London. But when Henry's brother dies, leaving him sole heir to his family's vast estate, Henry and Cato find themselves connecting once more and reexamining the paths their lives have taken.   As Henry struggles to come to terms with his personal passions and family obligations, and Cato fights against his religious doubts and darker urges, both men find themselves entwined in a deadly intrigue that could ruin not only their lives but also the lives of those they hold dear.   A dizzying display of complex plotting, Henry and Cato was praised as "Murdoch's finest novel" by Joyce Carol Oates, a spectacular combination of thrilling action and moral philosophizing that will leave readers spellbound.  

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Legacy Library: Iris Murdoch

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