A Word Child Critical Context
by Iris Murdoch

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Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The banality of the terrible secret, drawn without apology from pulp romance, does tend to undermine the critical response to this work, and the fusion of Peter Pan (laid on thickly) with subtle philosophical and psychological ideas is not entirely seamless. A Word Child, Murdoch’s seventeenth novel, follows in her tradition of deliberately courting aesthetic failure by taking realistically credible characters and then, without a blink, forcing them through Alice’s looking glass into formulaic patterns of conduct and (as it is said in the novel itself) extraordinary moments when human conduct shoots off at a tangent. A Word Child is a novel which skids about and is sometimes deeply true-to-life, sometimes very wise, and sometimes sheer nonsense, but always engaging.