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Rde cherishes his obsessive guilt and disappointment in a dull civil service job When the man whom he has betrayed reappe The narrator of this the seventeenth novel by Iris Murd The Dream Weaver reappe The narrator of this the seventeenth novel by Iris Murd

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A Word Child

Ars as head of his department Hilary hopes for forgiveness and a new life but finds himself haunted by a ghostly repetiti Hilary Burde is the word child of the title In school t Outside the Paint repetiti Hilary Burde is the word child of the title In school t

characters è eBook or Kindle ePUB ☆ Iris Murdoch

Introduction by Ray MonkSaved by education from a delinuent childhood cheated of Oxford by a tragic love tangle Hilary Bu Murdoch will win you overdespite yourselfHilary Burde g

10 thoughts on “A Word Child

  1. says:

    ”What a stupid coagulated mass of indistinguishable guilt and misery I had become How perfectly futile all my sufferings had been If only I could separate out that awful mixture of sin and pain if I could only even a for a short time even for a moment suffer purely without the burden of resentment and self degradation to which I had deliberately condemned myself there might be a place for a miracle And I reflected too as I walked and walked around London on the absolute doneness of what was done”Hilary Burde has had a fair share of hard knocks For one thing he doesn’t know who his father is in some cases that is a gift but certainly it is never a good start for anyone His mother died young leaving him orphaned For a while he is raised by his Aunt Bill I know strange name for an aunt who much prefers his half sister Crystal Aunt Bill soon has him packed off to an orphanage for his burgeoning bad behavior Of course if you tell someone he is a bad person enough times eventually he will start to believe you and act accordingly Hilary is on a ruinous course a poster child for a man destined to commit increasingly violent crimes and eventually end up incarcerated for at least the rest of his testosterone influenced years A teacher Mr Osmand is the first adult to ever show an interest in him He introduces Hilary to the world ofwords ”Looking up words in the dictionary was for me an image of goodness The endless endless task of learning new words was for me an image of lifeViolence is a kind of magic the sense that the world will always yield When I understood grammatical structure I understood something which I respected and which did not yield The exhilaration of this discovery though it did not ‘cure’ me informed my studies and cast on them a light which was not purely academic I learnt French and Latin and Greek at school Mr Osmand taught me German in his spare time I taught myself Italian”His dedication to language lands Hilary a spot at Oxford Mr Osmand may have saved Hilary from rattling the bars of a cage but Hilary lands in a cage none the less He meets a woman named Anne ”Anne met me as a stranger saw me as a stranger and miraculously understood me Her presence made me rest every muscle every atom became uiet and relaxed I lived I saw I was “Wonderful he has met the woman of his dreams Of course there is always a hitch she is married to his best friend Gunner Hilary incapable of restraint creates chaos that leads to tragedy He walks into his cage of remorse and misery and swallows the key For most of the book we are with Hilary long after the events at Oxford He has landed a job a low level civil service position that reuires very little of him It allows him to wallow in poverty and leaves him with enough energy to properly cultivate and maintain his own special concoction of anxiety and self loathing He doesn’t really have a life but he has caught his sister in the web of his own need ”I deliberately made Crystal suffer with me Could her pure suffering have redeemed me? In some ideal theory yes in reality no”He has a girlfriend Tommy who he is in a perpetual state of breaking up with He keeps her strung out with a series of letters misdirection cruelty and brief moments of tenderness ”A lot of what Tommy said was true She had been a surprise package After I had despaired of communications this soft voiced clever little Scot had managed to get through For she was clever She argued uite well she remembered things one had to keep one’s wits sharp there was even a pleasure in arguing with her about leaving her”The interesting thing about Hilary is that he has assembled despite his acerbic personality a collection of friends Like with Crystal and Tommy he manages his relationship with them even to the point that everyone has their assigned days and times to spend with Hilary He allows very little interaction between his friends because he likes controlling the narrative He is a different person with each friend and can only continue to be so if there is not too much interplay between those people and the slight variations of himself What is truly amazing to me is that all these people allow Hilary so much influence on their behavior They indulge him because he fascinates them They find his idiosyncratic behavior humorous He gets very angry though when his friends see him at the wrong place or at time when they are not scheduled ”I liked to live in other people’s worlds and have none of my own”I’m sure there are a whole host of psychological terms to better define Hilary Hilary’s carefully constructed life goes into a tailspin when Gunner arrives out of the mists of the past to take a job “upstairs” in the same department as Hilary He meets Gunner’s new wife Kitty ”I thought she was a saucy minx I don’t mean anything to do with impropriety I’m sure she is a perfect picture of propriety in the strict sense After all she would have the wit to play safe But she is one of those numerous women who can’t stop flicking their eyelashes at anything in trousers a compulsive flirt She flirted with the prime minister I suppose she flirted with you”Is history doomed to repeat itself? Will Crystal break away from the tenacious grasp of her brother and find a life for herself?Will Biscuit in the bluish purple sari ever escape the clutches of Lady Kitty? And why does Hilary keep shiver kissing her? Will there be a grand reconciliation scene with Gunner?Will Tommy finally leave Hilary for good and marry that guywhatshisname? More importantly will Hilary’s desk ever be moved back where it is supposed to be in the office? SighThose uestions and many will be answered when you read this book What is remarkable is that Iris Murdoch has created this pathetic creature; and yet she handles his story so deftly that this reader was knuckle deep into the book before he realized that he really didn’t like Hilary; and for that matter really didn’t care for the other characters either This is the second Iris Murdoch I have read and her dialogue and the social situations she creates are well structured smart and entertaining I will certainly be reading If you would like to read of my thoughts on Iris Murdoch's writing please click this link The Sea The Sea by Iris MurdochIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. says:

    Hilary a deprived and difficult boy is saved by a school master who nurtures his love of language He ends up at Oxford but most of the novel is set almost 20 years later when he is still suffering the results of a disastrous incident that ended his Oxford days More plot than a typical Murdoch novel but not entirely believable and too rushed at the end MotivesIt’s hard to fathom the motivation of many of the characters and why they put up with particular people and situations – but perhaps that’s what intrigued me and compelled me to continue Some of the minor characters were the most vivid and realistic Clifford office colleagues etc Unsympathetic CharactersIt’s tricky to make a novel work with an unsympathetic main character indeed very few sympathetic characters but overall this one does In Hilary’s case whether Murdoch knew it or not I don’t think the condition was widely diagnosed in 1975 when it was written his behaviour seems like classic Asperger’s syndrome It would certainly explain his lack of empathy obsessive routines and fascination with the mechanics of grammar rather than using language for expression and inference Novels With Slightly Similar Characters?It is interesting to compare this with the very different Curious Incident by Mark Haddon my review HERE and maybe The Housekeeper and the Professor my review HERE

  3. says:

    Murdoch will win you overdespite yourselfHilary Burde grows up in poverty abused He's saved by a tutor who notices his language skills and works with him to hone them Hillary is admitted to Oxford and finds a lush learning environment and yet another devoted tutor He thrives and dreams of saving himself and his younger sister from their childhood Just when he's ready to soar he commits a horrible act and his world crashes Burde is one of the most despicable literary characters I think I've ever encountered yet Murdoch's portrayal is compelling her revelatory pacing exuisite Hillary seems to say I can't forgive myself so it's your responsibility to if not forgive me excuse my bad behavior towards you You owe me I'm entitled to indulge my basest instincts I hate myself so much I'm entitled to hate and abuse you His outlook is pretty mesmerizing Murdoch's style is outside almost any other writer The writing is at times incredibly beautiful but the characters especially the main one are horrible I've read her Black Prince' and The Nice and the Good which I also liked but A Word Child is on a whole different level I wish I could say I loved her books but they're so lurid I can't As with all her books Word has an aura of exulted learning the kind that Oxford and other institutions of its ilk are known for It makes the action harder to relate to The educated Psychopath could be an alternate title Though Word Child was written in the mid 80's it could easily be mistaken for something written in the fifties because the s and sexism would be at home during that time Maybe Philip Roth was her proof reader though this cast of characters prove not only men can be misogynists More likely Murdoch's illustrating a point about one individual's twisted mind Poor Hilary Poorer still are the women who bump against him The men who cross his path aren't enjoying his company much eitherI almost feel stupid reviewing Murdoch's book because she writes with a depth of knowledge and an understanding of people at least a certain segment of them that her books seem untouchable by mere mortals She's like a scientist cutting live things open to see what's beating crawling or bleeding inside I don't think she's the greatest writer who ever lived but she's whizzing in and out of them She's not for everyone though She's dark Her characters writhe about and suffer and they make the reader suffer with them It ain't pretty Well ok it kind of is lovely It's a loveliness that catches you unawares especially when you turn the page only to encounter something even tawdry flip another page and you're in an oasis of beauty Yet even as you turn the next page you're trembling knowing you're gonna get plunged back into icy watersand it's the dead of winter It's too late for me This book solidified my devotion to Murdoch It's not too late for you SAVE YOURSELF

  4. says:

    This is definitely my favourite of the Iris Murdoch book that I have so far read for the Murdoch a month challenge The characters are fascinating complex beings the story so finely plotted and yet it is a very readable Murdoch a page turner I loved the descriptions on London in this one London is a feature of IM's work but with this novel there were a lot of references to places I knew in London I go there very seldomI also enjoyed Hilary's Office life with the bickering and gossip and desk moving

  5. says:

    The narrator of this the seventeenth novel by Iris Murdoch is a forty one year old man called Hilary Burde who had a difficult childhood as an orphan and could only use violence to express himself He is eventually mentored by a teacher Mr Osmand goes to Oxford and then after a tragic event sinks from his potential glorious rise in life to become a badly paid underutilized civil servant which is where the story begins To maintain his sanity Hilary has a strictly regimented life whether it be what he eats and wears or the days of the week he has dinner with the various people in his life These include his childlike sister Crystal his subordinate Arthur and Laura and Freddie Impiatt all of whom provide different atmosphere’s for Hilary to play his acknowledged part Something clearly has to give in this mundane repressed life and it eventually does as we find out what the tragic event was and see its continuing repercussions play out in tempestuous fashionHilary may have had a difficult start in life but this as so often with Murdoch’s male characters is not a man we can like or particularly empathize with He may be aware of his cruel rude and selfish behavior but takes few steps to change it and can't seem to stop himself torturing those he sees as weaker or beneath himself; his “girlfriend” Thomasina Arthur Christopher his ex boy band flat mate all are subjected to his emotional brutality in one way or another not helped by the copious amounts of alcohol he consumes As his emotions vacillate from day to day so do those around him and by the end of the novel every main female character has been in tears at least once often because of Hilary who has ideas in his head of the role they should play and that they can only fail to live up to He is constantly grabbing women by the wrists in the novel like he’s putting manacles on them and there is a sense of his restrained violence even with his beloved sister CrystalHis relationship in particular with Crystal who he seems to want to keep in a box like a toy is sometimes touching but primarily disturbing Crystal is a symbol of the innocence that Hilary has lost and as such he wants to keep her cloistered unable to be potentially sullied ‘She just had to be always available in a place fixed and controlled by me I had to know at any moment where she was’ If that wasn’t enough here is his comment about women in general b‘I was feeling so intensely sorry for myself by this time I was delighted to see Tommy After all a woman is a woman and it is her job to be a ministering angel Tommy ministered' Yup he’s a charmer alrightWe only hear about the other characters through Hilary’s eyes and for the most part he takes them all for granted although the Impiatts and Clifford appear to use him as much as he uses them either for entertainment or company Much of the humor of the novel relies on Hilary’s strident rudeness to others or unwillingness to play along with their jokes and schemes Most take place in the offices and in scenes in the flat and there is one particularly amusing scene between the Impiatts Hilary and Christopher This is very much however a sad and frustrating novel in so many ways as the inevitability of what is going to happen becomes clear and each character ‘muddles’ their way through this wintry London lifeThe weather in the novel is a major presence it seems as though Murdoch’s novels either take place in the blazing sunshine of summer or the cold and fog of winter this is a winter novel and the fog the cold and wet are pivotal in events that take place There are numerous scenes of walking through London of meetings in parks and by the river that are made dramatic by dripping hair and ice cold fingers and London itself and its landmarks such as Big Ben and its crammed tube trains of commuters is also part of this hemmed in atmosphere The park at Hampstead itself serves as Hilary’s ‘happy place’ in a uote which shows us not only this but Hilary’s desire for structure and suppressed violence he says‘For me the park was the great divide between myself and a happier land into which I thought that I was destined to enter It was not to be It turned out that I was unfit for ordinary life I was always sorry that I had been too young to be in the war I would have enjoyed the war’Nevertheless despite the freuent desire to strangle Hilary he makes for an engrossing read the writing is top notch and the ability of Murdoch to create a world of sualid apartments gloomy streets and thoroughly dislikable characters and yet still create that feeling of sinking into a good book from the very first page is present as always Some favorite Lines‘There is nothing like early promiscuous sex for dispelling life’s bright mysterious expectations’‘After a pause Tommy said “Aren’t you thinking rather too grandly of yourself? You are just you after all with the crinkly hair and the crooked face and the odd socks on”‘Her beautiful golden eyes were hidden by the thick glasses whereon all sorts of reflections were playing as she moved her head dealing with the bottle Her frizzy orange tinted hair hung heavily down as if a small thick mat had been laid upon her head’‘I stared at that face and the universe seemed to circle round uietly like a great bird and come to rest’

  6. says:

    One of my favorites by by Ms Murdoch a great place to start if you've never read her fiction very darkly funny also about mad love The ‘word child’ of the title is Hilary Burde the narrator Using one of her rare first person narratives the book has an interesting structure with each chapter headed by a day of the week This is based on the order and routine Hilary has attempted to establish for his life by having certain things that he always does on certain days of the week and the novel follows him as this routine is gradually upended From childhood he escaped into his own world through a talent for languages partly due to the inexpiable horror of having caused the death of another man's wife an event which ended his promising Oxford career and sent him into a decade of self flagellation Gunnar the wronged widower reappears remarried but as paralyzed as Hilary by the events of twenty years ago Through the agency of an unfathomable half Indian servant Gunnar's second wife begins an euivocal intrigue with Hilary on the pretext of getting Gunnar to come to terms with his feelings about Hilary and Anne's death The moral imperatives of the developing situation are perceived in contradictory terms by Hilary and his small circle of confederates a persistent half wanted mistress; a placid co worker and his effusively solicitous wife; a rancorous homosexual friend; the beautiful and mysterious servant; his unpresentable but adored sister and her humbly devoted fiance Murdoch gives us all the machinery and then some for a cause of conscience of the most perverse contradictory and surreal complexity in a subjectively perceived post Christian universe where moral impasses obstinately continue to exist and to have conseuences but no canon law can help us predict them The result of the events is a resounding triumph One can see themes develop and abound; the first person narrative keeps you riveted in spite of the limits of this point of view Essentially it is a Gothic tale whose atmosphere concerns fall and redemption The author's use of stylistic effects is outstanding I enjoyed the neat obvious and effective structure of the book which kept the events within reasonable limits Some may find Murdoch somewhat challenging but but I relish the feeling that the in this case as with her best novels goods have been delivered

  7. says:

    My favourite Iris Murdoch and one of my favourite books London in the winter compare with Under the Net for London in the Summer Peter PanSloane Suare on the tubeI may be wrong but I think the boy at the centre of the Peter Pan story killed himself at Sloane Suare Underground station

  8. says:

    I'm giving this book four stars but liking is not exactly an emotion I associate with this read Frustration yes despair Exasperation at the way the characters all seem to be caught in their behavioral patterns Admiration for the intellectual elouence of the narrator Respect for the author who weaves her words so that I stayed with the story for all of its 400 pagesFor a long time I wanted to read something by Murdoch She has been praised and awarded and now I know why since she really is a very accomplished writer I'm glad I read this book for the experience of having read a book by her But I would not lightly recommend this read to anyone elseThe themes are those of the great Tragedies being haunted by the Past being driven by Fate toward some inescapable Doom Wanting to be Forgiven There are many beautiful philosophical musings in the book on these subject which make it worth while for anyone wanting to read about themBut for anyone not particularly craving to be depressed this is not an advisable bookThe main character deports himself in such an unlikable manner he attracts a crowd of people who either mock or pity him or both I found it hard to depict him in my mind's eye He's big bullying and brusue and yet has a following of females who make him the center of their lives out of pity or a sense they can save him or masochismThere seems to be a misogynist trait to this novel all the women derive their worth from being with or waiting for a man This book does not pass the Bechdel test which simply dictates that it should answer the following three criteria 1 it has to have at least two women in it who 2 who talk to each other about 3 something besides a man I was a bit surprised by that since I always thought of Murdoch as a modern woman It makes the book a bit unrealistic for me even if it is set in the seventies None of the women seems to have a voice that is truly her own they all use the same language and phrases Even the simple Crystal is uite elouent and intelligent there is nothing in speech or demeanor that distinguishes the characters from each otherBut that goes for the male characters as well Even though difference in class and standing play a great role it is never really felt in the conversations They are all on one level even when they argueThe end of the novel answers to the laws of tragedy which is slightly satisfying On the other hand there is no real change in the main character at the end he and his main woman continue in the same unresolved manner they had in the beginningAll in all reading this book was like being trapped in a windowless small room without any fresh air Since that is obviously what the writer intended I can respect the craftmanship Putting the book away now that I've finished it feels like a great relief

  9. says:

    Hilary Burde is the word child of the title In school the only thing he did really well in was languages He excelled at words but not in using them creatively; his interest was in learning how they worked together; the grammar not the poetry An abused orphan his plan was to get a position at Oxford which he did and bring his sister Crystal to come live with him and be educated by him But an ill advised love affair with a married woman results in a tragedy and he finds himself working at a dead end government job his sister supporting herself as a seamstress He has a girlfriend Tommy who he treats horribly and a few friends who tolerate him It seems he has found his niche or rather his rut and will go on this way Until the wronged husband of his ill advised love affair comes to work as a higher up at the office he works at How will he deal with this? Will he do the right thing this time around? Burde is a thoroughly unlikable character He’s weak he’s narcissistic he expects the women in his life to just orbit uietly around him until he has use for them He has no ambition and no longer any dreams Basically he contributes little or nothing to the world Despite this Murdoch as managed to make the novel one I could not stop reading I have to admit it was rather like watching a slow motion car crash one where you wonder how many others he will take down with him this time Thankfully the supporting cast members are likable than Burde well most of them are His office mates are pretty strange All the supporting characters show themselves ultimately to have a lot to themselves than Burde assumes they have life love and volition beyond their association with him A very good book all round if you can take a main character who is a ds

  10. says:

    The most egregious facet of my Vintage Classics paperback edition of Iris Murdoch’s “A Word Child” is undoubtedly the clumsy uote on the front cover from The Times “Iris Murdoch is incapable of writing without fascinating and beautiful colour” While my sanity refuses me any scope to contest the fascinating colour of Iris’s writing it would be crass and unacceptably unfair to attribute this particular book with beautiful colour as it is with a master craftswoman’s artful poise that Iris draws a very real monochrome yellow rendition of LondonInto this necessarily murky landscape Iris captures the complex frailties of human relationships and the fragile edifice of social behaviour as she draws the reader through the guilt ridden habitual purgatory of the protagonist Hilary Burde’s passive reminiscence of life – uite on a par with the devastating culpability which powers RR’s War and Peace Engraving her legendary intelligence into every line of every page Murdoch entices the reader into a heartily pumping and fabulous charade of pain; a calamitous world of sickening sibling relationships haunting nostalgia and naive virgin worshipAs the plot inevitably weaves into a powerful tapestry depicting childish renouncement of responsibilities the disaster slowly unravels in almost farcical proportions as Iris Murdoch displays what can earnestly be called one of the most cunningly paced and thoroughly unblemished examples of the genius at work on a novel

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