(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The novel revolves around the last period of Bruno Greensleave’s illness, in which his bad conscience about the way he treated his long-deceased wife, his dead mistress, and his son is made the center of everyone’s life and eventually precipitates difficulties which must be met and solved not only in order that Bruno may die in peace but also to allow the others to live with some chance of making sense of their lives. Bruno’s determination to set things right with his son, Miles, whom he repudiated years ago when Miles married an Indian woman, is made most difficult because Miles, although remarried, still mourns for his first wife, who was killed in a plane crash. Father and son are both looking back into their past unhappily, and that matter is coincidentally complicated by the fact that Bruno’s son-in-law, Danby Odell, has never entirely got over the death of his wife, Gwen, who drowned some years before.

Miles, at least, has the consolation of a second marriage to Diana, whom he loves, although not with quite the same intensity that he felt for his first wife. His sister-in-law, Lisa, who was once in Catholic orders, lives with them. Danby, always skillful at living on the surface of life, and involved unwillingly in bringing Miles and Bruno together, has avoided deep emotional connections since the death of his wife and keeps his housekeeper, Adelaide, who loves him, as a mistress but is not unhappy about starting up an affair with Diana and...

(The entire section is 511 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Baldanza, Frank. Iris Murdoch, 1974.

Byatt, A. S. Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch, 1965.

Dipple, Elizabeth. Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit, 1982.

Gerstenberger, Donna. Iris Murdoch, 1975.

Grant, Annette. Review in Newsweek. LXXIII (January 20, 1969), p. 90.

Time. Review. XCIII (February 21, 1969), p. 84.