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Book Review: "The Italian Girl" by Iris Murdoch

3/5 - how was this all allowed to happen?...

By Annie KapurPublished 10 months ago 3 min read
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Iris Murdoch is an author that I've had my ups and downs with - as I believe everyone who has read her works has as well. I really enjoyed reading The Bell, and The Sea, The Sea sits at one of my favourite Murdoch novels of all. The Book and the Brotherhood was brilliant as was The Black Prince. Unfortunately, books such as Under the Net and The Nice and the Good failed to peak my interest as much. They, I found, were thoroughly average. But, I have to say I simply thought A Word Child and The Sandcastle were boring as sin. However, this review is not about them, it's about the book The Italian Girl. Let's talk on what this book is about then and whether it is good, average or boredom.

Published in 1964, this book is about a man called Edmund who is coming back from his mother's funeral. Previously, he escaped away from this life, but returns to the same style of arrogance he had towards it upon seeing these faces he walked away from. His issues become larger as he encounters people he did not want to see and, the elusive Italian servant creates a whole new set of issues. His brother Otto, the drunkard, is a strange man with his own problems but, I think that Edmund really does believe that he has the whole world upon his own shoulders, spending far too long feeling sorry for himself that he cannot see that others are suffering around him as well. During the cremation, there is a scene where his brother is flat-out drunk and, as this may be a coping mechanism, the reader understands but Edmund seems a little passive, even if what he does is something emotional (I won't tell you what), it is still somewhat passive and a little judgemental.

One thing I detest about Edmund is his sexual interest concerning his own niece, Otto's daughter - Flora. Flora is a young teen who is growing up quickly and encountering some very odd situations that are far too mature to include her input. Edmund seems to have a Lolita thing going on with her and she makes absolutely no effort to get his attention whatsoever. Often playfully luring him into situations, but not putting herself into a situation where she would be considered a (insert nasty name for a promiscuous woman here). Exposing Edmund's strange fantasies about his niece seems to be the whole thing going on with this family and yet, everyone seems to be doing something wrong themselves. There are affairs, people having kids with people they're having the affairs with and then there's sexual assault, harrassment, strange relationships that make no logical sense. The list goes on. By the time the Italian Girl, Maggie, comes into the book so much has gone to shit anyway that it's not even a surprise that her life has gone to shit as well.

I know what Iris Murdoch is trying to do here and it is well-written I have to admit. The ending is absolutely terrible though, I think we can all agree on that. It's very anti-climatic and practically none of the real problems here, the psychological ones that people have, are actually addressed properly. However, she makes us hate each character for a different reason whilst also making us read the book with a thorough critical eye. I have to say though, the book is so short that you get one thing after another simple thrown at you over and over. The book's length does not support how many things keep happening and for that, I'm taking off marks.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

Film and Writing (M.A)

150K+ Reads on Vocal

IG: @AnnieApproximately

Pronouns: (she/her/hers)

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