Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe

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Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A beautiful collection of letters from throughout Iris Murdoch's brilliant life, "Living on Paper" explores and illuminates the life of one of our greatest authors, complicated, passionate, warm and funny throughout.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 688 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099570158

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This collection of Iris Murdoch's most interesting and revealing letters gives us a living portrait of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers and thinkers. They show her mind at work - seeing Murdoch grappling with philosophical questions, feeling anguish when a book fails to come together, and uncovering Murdoch's famed personal life, in all its intriguing complexity. They also show the 'real life material' that fed into her fiction - and above all we see her life - blazing, brave, and brilliant in this collection of letters.

Despite reading a lot of books, my pool of favourite authors is still fairly small - Ted Hughes, Patrick Gale, Elizabeth Gaskell, Christopher Isherwood - and Iris Murdoch. Murdoch wrote novels filled with compelling characters, warm humour and great wit. All vastly different, they nevertheless share the same incisive and knowing writing from an author who remained at the peak of her writing abilities for over 40 years. Editors Horner and Rowe have collected a fascinating collection of writings from throughout Murdoch's life - taking the reader on a journey from Murdoch's student days in the 1930's right up to her older years in the 1990's. Her skill as a writer is evident from the offset - even the smallest letters contain wonderful depictions of characters and situations, and there are very few where a warm wit isn't on display. Travelling through life with the author, one can't help but fall in love with Murdoch. She's a compelling and captivating character - often warm but also difficult and contrary at times. It's clear she's a good friend, and some companions are constants throughout her life. It's also rather fascinating to see potential glimpses of characters from her books forming - subtle hints here and there that may or not come to nothing, or may appear fully formed in a novel of Murdoch's down the line.

Her personal life is explored in some detail, and it's an intricate and intriguing one. Wholly original, much like the author itself. I won't elaborate too much on the subject, as the editors of the book have already penned a brilliant article for The Guardian on the sexism shown regarding Iris Murdoch's personal life when compared to that of contemporaries of hers such as Ted Hughes. Needless to say, hers was a complicated and intriguing life - but certainly a full and hugely exciting one filled with love. Married to writer and critic John Bayley for over 40 years, their marriage was one full of dedication and devotion and, no matter the fascination with Murdoch's sexual life, one that clearly worked incredibly well for them, as can be seen in these pages. Brave, brilliant, fierce and funny, Murdoch was one of our greatest writers, and this collection sheds new light on her life, allowing the reader to view it through the eyes of the writer herself. Illuminating, engaging and respectful, this is well worth a read for any Murdoch fan, and any fan of clever well written letters. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I'd recommend The Animals by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy - another collection of letters that features an author at the peak of their creative powers, and explores their personality, relationships and everyday life through compelling moments.

Buy Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe at Amazon.com.

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