(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Bill Mor, vaguely dissatisfied with his life, is faced with possibilities and choices which he could not have expected. The novel begins, appropriately, with Bill in verbal combat with his wife, Nan Mor, over his future and the future of their children. Mor wants to run for Parliament; Nan does not want him to do so. He wants his children to go to the university; she sees it as a waste of money. It is clear that Nan usually wins such arguments, and that Bill usually backs down and apologizes. He is determined, this time, to have his way.

The matter is complicated by the arrival at the school of Rain Carter, an attractive young woman with a budding career as a painter. She has been commissioned to paint the portrait of the recently retired headmaster, Mr. Demoyte, a close friend and mentor of Mor. Carter and Mor, who are naturally brought together in the closed community of St. Bride’s school, fall in love.

Both of Mor’s children become aware of their father’s infatuation and disapprove of their father’s conduct. Felicity, who believes that she possesses mystical powers, and who has an ambiguous, almost surreal connection with a gypsylike figure who is always crossing the lovers’ path, sets out to break the amorous spell by improvising her own mystical ceremonies. Her brother, less interested in and committed to imaginative flights but not entirely unbelieving, spurns his father and withdraws to carry out a plan that he has made with...

(The entire section is 558 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Allen, Walter. The Modern Novel in Britain and the United States, 1964.

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

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

Wolfe, Peter. The Disciplined Heart: Iris Murdoch and Her Novels, 1966.