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Nuns And Soldiers (2002)

Nuns and Soldiers (2002)

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3.92 of 5 Votes: 4
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0142180092 (ISBN13: 9780142180099)
penguin classics

About book Nuns And Soldiers (2002)

My jury is still out on this one. Honestly, I'm not sure if I really liked it or really hated it.SPOILERS AHOY AHOYThe unrequited love story lines felt genuine. But there were instances where I didn't fully understand a character's motivations: Gertrude and Tim's break-up and their lack of communication, Manfred and Veronica's doings at the end there, pretty much anything Gertrude did of her own volition.I didn't care as much for the characters individually as I did for their relationships. The exceptions were Tim, all bumbly and unsure of his status as Gertrude's second love, and the delightfully bitter Daisy. Daisy's encounter with Anne was memorable. I think Iris Murdoch is at her best when she's writing dialogue. The conversation between those two characters in that scene spans from friendly curiosity to aggression/submission to an understanding between the two women about their similarities. And later when Anne tells Gertrude that she liked Daisy, the reader understands how a woman could be fond of someone she almost fled from in fear.There really was no climax in this story, was there? I suppose Guy's passing could be considered one but most of the action of the plot takes place between Tim and Gertrude after Guy is out of the picture. Anne's moving out the first time might be considered a climax but she moves back in rather quickly and it doesn't change anything much. If Anne had point blank told the Count of her longing that would have been the climax. But that scene sadly never occurred. The Count was still so wrapped up in his lust for G. that he never saw what was right in front of him. I think that touches on what I didn't like about the book. Everyone was waiting for something to happen. The characters were all so stupidly passive - it felt like most of the book was each character ruminating on what they would do if they had the balls to change their lives. Frustrating. Here's the short letter I would have written to the characters if I could have:Anne - anyone who claims to have lost their religion but is still seeing Jesus in her kitchen has some unresolved issues. I agree the Count is ridiculous for not noticing what you're doing for him; but, girrrl, there are so many other fish in the sea. Including two people in the group that are rich and sweet on you! Grab those bulls by the horn (so to speak) and forget the forlorn Pole who's happy to share the love of his life with a hippy painter.Count - stop feeling sorry for yourself and take a risk. You're a grown man and the love of your life married a no-talent painter. She isn't too hung up with titles and social class, is she? What the hell are you waiting for?Gertrude - who the eff do you think you are demanding all of your friends to stay in your life to console you? If you truly loved them, you would let them go. Yes, losing Guy is difficult and I see no issues with you leaning on friends to help you through it. But requiring them to stay involved in your self-absorbed life is not doing them any favors.I think that may also be why I liked Daisy - she was the only character in the novel that took things at face value and had an ending with some hope. I'd like to think she quit drinking and went back to painting and became successful.

When I finally reached the end of Nuns and Soldiers, all I felt was relief. I took quite a bit of time to make it to the end, 6 weeks. The book is very much Iris Murdoch, examining the philosophy of life, love, religion. The story's central figure, Gertrude went through her own personal turmoil, falling in love with a being who was considered to be morally and socially inferior after the passing of her husband. The web of lies spun, deceits thrown and emotional upheavals of the characters around Gertrude when the relationship was disclosed were well-doctored. The author's crafting of the brewing emotions was not lost on me but somehow, this book, did not get to me like the Sea, the Sea. The central theme which I gathered is jealousy. Ann was jealous of the Count's lifelong pledge to Gertrude, the Count's own descent into the hell of jealousy upon the discovery of Gertrude's affair... The story did drag out a bit and was tiresome. Oddly, I feel no sympathy to any of the characters and their sufferings. They had willingly placed themselves under the lock and chain of their personal prison. Overall, this book is dependable if you are a fan of Iris Murdoch which I am...

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I find Iris Murdoch novels as hard to keep separated in my head as Bond movies. Usually, though, there is at least one memorable incident which I clearly associate with the book.Here, the scene I remember involves Gertrude and the odd, slightly geeky character that everyone calls the Count. Gertrude asks him whether he'd like to play chess. She's a complete beginner. He's very good, though she isn't aware of this. She's surprised when he refuses. "Why not?" she asks. He says, "Because it would be a completely different game for me." And at that moment, Gertrude suddenly feels very close to him...****************************************************I cheated and looked at the Wikipedia entry to get some more clues as to which book this was. Okay, it was the one where the ex-nun has the very strange encounter with Jesus. That's also a great scene. I should say, in case you're wondering, that I love both Iris Murdoch and Bond. I just wish I had a better memory.

Originally published on my blog here in April 2005.The Sea, the Sea is one of my favourite Murdoch novels and one of her most famous; its follow-up is much less well known. It doesn't quite equal its predecessor, but it is well worth reading, more so than her later novels.Nuns and Soldiers begins on a deathbed; Guy Openshaw tells his wife that she should marry again. She is reluctant to do this, feeling that it would be a betrayal, but then, quite soon after Guy's death, Gertrude falls unexpectedly in love with a much younger man, a poverty stricken painter. This horrifies her friends, partly for snobbish reqasons and partly because they assume that Tim Reede is really after Gertrude's money. When they discover that Tim had hidden from Gertrude the fact that he was already in a long term (if informal) relationship when he met her, they feel that their suspicions have been confirmed. Murdoch makes it clear that he really did fall for Gertrude and that he hid the relationship from pure embarrassment, but that is not how it looks to Gertrude's friends or (eventually) to Gertrude, and succeeds in making everybody miserable.So why the rather strange title? There is a literal nun in the story, Gertrude's friend Anne, who has recently left an enclosed order after losing her faith. On the other hand, there are no real soldiers. The distinction seems to be more between passive and active characters, with nuns and soldiers being traditional archetypes of each. Most characters in this novel move from one to the other end of the spectrum (and back again), and the reader is also shown that the characters' self perception does not always match their position.Nuns and Soldiers is not a happy novel, but it is a good one. It doesn't have quite the impact of The Sea, The Sea, possibly because it starts with a death bed scene and possibly because a fair amount of philosophical discussion is presented in the early chapters: there are both emotional and intellectual hurdles to get over before a reader can get into the story itself. The transformation of Tim Reede's character throughout the novel is interesting, but on the other hand some of the less characters are either very ordinary or have odd things done to them by the author. The Polish man nicknamed "the Count" is an example; Murdoch seems to vacillate about just how important a part he should play. (This is actually quite clever, as real relationships ebb and flow in ways normally drastically simplified in fiction.) Though it is fairly hard work on the conceptual level, Nuns and Soldies is made accessible by Murdoch's style, which keeps the story flowing along. What I particularly like about the novel are the scenes when characters discuss others behind their backs, which may be incidental to the plot but which say a lot about their relationships and perceptions of each other.
—Simon Mcleish

Ahhh, I didn't really like this one. I don't know why I'm even giving it 3 stars ... maybe because I feel like it should deserve 3 stars but I'm too uncharitable to give it that many? Whatever. The main reason I didn't like Nuns and Soldiers was that I hated the ending. Ugh, what a horrible ending. It made me hate everyone; I ended up not liking any of the characters ... except maybe Manfred, which is so weird, because I didn't like him at all until the end. Even the Count lost his charm for me. Idiot.p.s. I kept wishing that this was set 30 or 40 years back, instead of in the 70's.
—Faith Bradham

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