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A READER'S JOURNAL
Published by W. W. Norton/NY in 2000
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2003
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This is the first book I've read by Iris Murdoch. I decided to get this book after viewing the movie of the last days of her life portrayed by Judith Dench and Robert Broadbent recently. This is a story more than a novel about an episode in the life of Yvonne who has nearly past the age of being married, and has been courted, sort of, by Sam, who is rather shy and one wonders if the two will ever get married. In her argument with her mother about Sam, Yvonne betrays the story's title.
[page 5] "Can't I live my life as I please," said Yvonne, "since it's the only thing I have? It's that I can't see him as something special and I won't marry him if I can't."
How can Sam become something special to Yvonne? He takes Yvonne to a new saloon lounge, a Dublin bar where ladies are welcome and where they can come without losing their reputation (without gaining a seamy one). They have a short adventure at the bar and then Sam tells her he has something special to show her. They walk outside into the moonlit night, and Sam takes her beside a fallen tree by the lake.
Yvonne waits for him to show her this sometime special that he promised her. We wait for Sam to pull out an engagement ring, get down on his knees, and propose to her in this romantic setting he has lured her into, instead Sam points to the tree, "Yes, this, the poor tree." Yvonne was dumbfounded. He had dragged from the streetcar to show her a dirty rotten fallen tree?
[page 42] "But no," said Sam, quite calmly now beside her, "only see it, Yvonne, be quiet for a minute and see it. It's so beautiful, though indeed it's a sad thing for a tree to lie like this, all fresh with its green leaves on the ground, like a flower that's been picked. I know it's a sad thing. But come to me now and we'll be a pair of birds up in the branches." He took her against her will and drew her into him among the rustling leaves which lay in a tall fan across the path. He kissed the girl very gently on the cheek.
Yvonne pulled away from him, told him she hated the tree and ran home to her mother. By the time she arrived home, she had decided that she was going to marry Sam. While Sam's tree seemed to be nothing special to Yvonne, she found her something special in Sam. While this slender book may seem to be nothing special, one can catch a glimpse that Iris Murdoch's story telling was something special.
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