Truth be told, I was scared of the book. Scared of its length, scared I might not like it enough to finish it (I'm very frustrated when I can't finish books - I always feel it's my fault).
Thank goodness Murdoch really knows how to write, I actually loved reading "The Bell" a couple of years ago and I promised myself I'd keep on reading Murdoch. But I never knew which one to continue with, and, yes, I was scared of their length :). And I chose this one because it was mentioned in a really nice interview with Murdoch's translator into Romanian and her friend for 25 years.
What's new here (possibly in some of her other novels too, no idea!) is that Murdoch writes from a man's perspective (Charles Arrowby, retired theatre figure in his sixties). Some say she did that because she wanted to write like a man / be treated like a male writer. Seriously? The woman had published about 18 novels before this one, one would think she must have tried that already, don't you think?
I both loved and hated Charles throughout the novel. Of course he's self-absorbed / self-deluded / obsessed / despotic but he cooks the lightest and most rustic meals ever, he's in deep love with cheese and wine and he doesn't mind living a secluded life in his isolated, rusty house near the sea.
There are a lot of things going on, which disturb Charles' peace and quiet; past and present mingling together, twisting with his mind, playing tricks on him, friends who love and loathe him equally. Not one thing that was in a certain state at the beginning remains the same at the end. Well, maybe the sea. Buuut, I would have loved the book even if Murdoch hadn't done anything else but describing Charles every day, cooking, sipping wine, going swimming and mending his house - this is how much I liked it. By the way, if a director thinks about turning the book into a film, I hope they'd consider Alan Rickman for Charles' part.
P.S. Really nice portrayal of the characters - James Arrowby deserves an entire novel to himself!