Thursday, December 18, 2008

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Here is my third entry for the From the Stacks Challenge. (Previous entries can be found with the label below.) This is one that I've had for about a year - it was a Christmas gift from my brother-in-law and his girlfriend last year, and it took signing up for a challenge to get me to read it. Not because I wasn't interested, it's just very difficult to get me to read my own books. That's specifically why I sign up for these sorts of challenges.
I knew nothing about this book, beyond the information anyone can glean from the cover print. The book was written in 1954 by Iris Murdoch, who wrote more than 20 books. This one takes place in London, presumably during the time that it was written. I found Under the Net to be more entertaining than I expected. The main character, Jake Donaghue, is a man who is afraid of hard work, who never has a job or a place to live, but manages to live well off the generosity of this friends. The only job he seems to do is as a translator for a french author. Jake wants to be a writer in his own right, but as mentioned before, he's not very good at actually working on something.
Jake's life changes when he is once again without a place to live, and gets in contact with his old girlfriend and her movie-star sister. This brings him back into contact with Hugo, the man who he broke off contact with years before. Jake has to come to terms with a variety of opinions he holds about these friends from his past before he can face his future.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is hard to explain how funny the book is - there are parts that seem like some kind of movie caper or heist. Jake's character is very well drawn - you root for him even when he's behaving like an idiot. His friends are interesting and varied, and not like anyone I know. And once Mister Mars, the movie dog, joins him (in a very funny kidnap-the-dog scene), I was loving it. Written by someone less talented, this book could have been terrible, but Murdoch does a wonderful job telling the story with both humor and drama.

No comments: