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I've been trying to find a copy of this book through swapping. I've collected several others of her books and hope to read them all eventually. I really enjoyed The Black Prince,The Sea,The Sea, Message to the Planet, and The Italian Girl so far. Sorry this one wasn't to your liking. It will be interesting to see if I think differently. Thanks for reviewing it.

adele geras

I read this book some time ago, having been lucky enough to find a copy in my local secondhand shop and I have to say that while I found it not nearly as good as many of hers, (Black Prince, Book and the Brotherhood, The Sea, the sea) I did enjoy it in a strange way. Once I stopped hoping that the characters would bear any resemblance to anyone in REAL LIFE and assumed it was all a kind of Midsummer NIght's Dream type thing only much more Baroque, I sort of leaned back and let it all wash over me. I agree, most of it is completely ridiculous....even the names, of course, and things like Satanic masses under Whitehall are just TOO MUCH, really. As for all the sexual shenanigans of one kind and another, gettings together and splittings apart etc, that was completely over the top. So if you like OVER THE TOP, this book is more one for you than if you're a fan of discretion and understatement. I wasn't sorry to finish it but I have to confess to never being bored, which is a good start for any book. Not hard to read at all, but quite crazy in several ways. Quite crazy can be a good thing and here it SOMETIMES is, I felt! Glad to have it under my belt, so to speak. Also, I have to report that next month's book, which I started yesterday is so far ENTHRALLING and brilliantly written...terrific choice, Cornflower!


The book the Nice and the Good is based around Kate and Octavian who enjoy a very comfortable life in Dorset. A tragedy has occurred at Octavian’s work in London and the ensuing investigation is part of the story. There are a number of characters in the book, maybe too many and they seem to be quite eccentric, with odd behaviour. In the introduction it tells us that the characters were “trying, hoping and not infrequently praying to be good” I was not convinced. I didn’t like the idea of Kate flirting so much with Ducane and then telling Octavian all about it, as though she was playing with his affections! Although Ducane was one of the main characters, I felt I didn’t really understand him.I enjoyed the character of Mingo as well and loved the descriptions of him. The setting of the house on the coast makes the reader feel that they are enjoying a long hot summer and although the beach was where the twins spent much of their time and we think of idyllic summer picnics, the initial description of Gunnar’s Cave was obviously setting the scene for the climax. I did feel that the end was very contrived.
I quite enjoyed this book, but it did take me a time to read. I think this is a reflection on what I really thought “The Nice and the Good.” I do agree with Adele about letting it all wash over me. I think thatis the best way to read the book.

Mary McCartney

If I hadn't been reading this for the Book Group I wouln't have finished it. It felt at times like she threw all the characters' names in the air and paired them off with whoever they fell beside. And then did it again. Didn't enjoy it at all.


Oh dear, I think I'm going to be the only person who had a thoroughly good time reading this, but then, I did start out more pro-Murdoch than most. Not that I liked any of the characters (except Mingo) - and this time round (I first read it when I was about 17) the "ebulliently wedded" Kate and Octavian reminded me horribly of a couple we used to know who behaved in very much the same way, so I found their ghastliness quite convincing. And I mostly felt sorry for Pierce - the relationship between Pierce and Barbara is very similar to that between two of the characters in An Unofficial Rose, which might have made me particularly aware of his distress, as I'd just finished that book.

I was very absorbed in Ducane's agonising over his messy involvements with Kate and Jessica (though impatient with him), and amused at the lies and accommodations that people indulge in - I think that this is where Murdoch is really compelling: although her plots can be so theatrical, there is artificiality in many of the situations, dialogue can be unnatural and the children don't behave like any I have met (though I could imagine Murdoch herself as a child solemnly playing Nobel Mice), she gets what goes on inside people's heads right. She depicts all the failures to live up to one's own goals, the stories people tell themselves about their motives, the excuses, the pettiness and so on, but also the aspiration to be good which so much of this plot turns on. I think I read all of her novels as theatre, or as mythmaking.

The gifts of stone and glass seem to me to be concerned with the twins' isolation: they live so much in their own world and the gifts are a way of extending it to include people they care about. They are also about orderliness, perhaps, and a need for that in the face of a untidy household mostly wrapped up in its own concerns. Also they attribute feelings to objects, which is perhaps an extension of the link between them...again that makes me think of the orderliness which seems to be a feature of all their games. And they are reflected in the wet pebbles in the cave, that make Ducane sure he is going to die.

Mr Cornflower

A bit like the obscurer pieces of an acknowledged great composer, this is a book which I found worked only in flashes, but those flashes were brilliant - one can't give up on a writer capable of sentences like this:

"He remembered the scene in his bedroom with hallucinatory vividness, and seemed to remember it all the time, as if it floated constantly rather high up in his field of vision like the dazzling lozenge which conveys the presence of the Trinity to the senses of some bewildered saint."

Most of the characters are indeed rather antipathetic, but I'm not sure that's necessarily a weakness - looking at how people can be beastly to each other and only fitfully honest with themselves is not necessarily a weak premise for fiction. I'll read more Murdoch, and as the consensus seems to be that this isn't one of her best I shall look forward to them all the more.

Mr Cornflower

PS I find it most unlikely that anyone, howeever strong, should have managed to turn a full size billiard table on its side single-handed which Richard Biranne is said to have done (onto his wife's lover's foot). Those things are just too heavy.

had read a good deal of IM years ago...prob 30 or so....and tried Nuns and Soldiers....and just put it this one only for the discussion...and it didn't revive any memory of the IM i'd enjoyed years Mr. Cornflower...i think i'll go back and try another....which would you recommend?


I had a tough time getting through the set-up as I mention in my longer post about the book - - (hope it's ok to provide that). But I felt the book ultimately paid off. I loved the fact that Willy and Jessica have a brief breathless tryst, I found that scene hilarious. I loved the whole household of characters. How thoughtful Ducane was about his charge - not simply out to get Biranne, exercise his power, and judge him for his bad behavior, but the whole investigation (and book really) was an exercise in thinking deeply about personal responsibility, and truthfulness amidst the temptation of one's desire. I thought the scene in the cave was an absolute killer - it had me on pins and needles. Personally, I think that The Sea, The Sea and The Black Prince, The Philosopher's Pupil and, The Book and the Brotherhood are all better crafted works of fiction. But I was very taken by the travails of Octavian's kooky household(that the name of the presenter of the Rose in Der Rosenkavalier - that is the bringer of the symbol of love who ends up falling in love himself - is that a coincidence do you think?)

B Macleod

This book was a re-read for me so I enjoyed taking my time to reflect on the themes of the novel. It certainly is dense! I see now that all the characters, their relationaships and the muddles they get into, the accidental events (contingency is a very Murdoch 'thing'), are part of her overall plan which, to me, is to explore some philosophical ideas, in this case the notion of Good (and its opposite) in all its guises. So it isn't the story, in itself, that is the appeal of the book - all of her books - it is the philosophical themes underpinning the plot.
The word Good has many meanings and Murdoch works with them all! The characters and the situations show us people tying to be good (or not), and/or seeing themselves as good.
I liked the muffins for tea conversation between Willy and Theo. Theo ends up saying "There are muffins and muffins" - life is messy, complicated; it depends on how you look at things.
I just love this author! I find her thought-provoking and she always leaves me satisfied yet not without puzzles. For example she uses the phrase 'aesthetic promiscuity'. What's that? What might be an example?

Dark Puss

I found the characters at the start rather styalized (from "Central Casting" I felt) and the end was a huge disappointment, but I read the book with enthusiasm and I agree with many commentators that there was some fantastic writing. I think that Mr C sums up this book well with his musical analogy, and in that vein I was slightly surprised to note that Barbara was playing the flute quartet #1 in D maj rather than the concerto #2 in the same key which I would have thought a much more plausible choice! I didn't mind at all the antipathetic nature of many of the characters, indeed to me their foibles, selfishness and self-centredness seemed very plausible and entirely suited to the story and completely appropriate to the ideas she was exploring. Some aspects of some characters were a little too close to home for comfort!

I too will be reading more of this author so thank you for making this excellent choice, even if this is perhaps a somewhat less that perfect example of her work.

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