The Bell – Iris Murdoch


Chosen by Jo

A lay community of mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, a home of sequestered nuns. An old bell is rediscovered, causing change in everyone.

© “A former teacher establishes a sanctuary for those looking for a “refuge from modernity”. Dora Greenfield is one such soul searcher, returning wearily to her unhappy marriage. Like other Murdoch books I have read, The Bell provides a well-considered social commentary on people, on how they treat themselves and one another as they search for the meaning in life. Here they are also attracted to a spiritual bucolic life amongst the transforming world of the 50s.

“Despite all this substance, the novel does not read as serious and moralistic, but rather has a lively lyricism and characters who are equally endearing and maddening. The Abbey is well detailed and a strong backdrop for the myriad personalities.

“Amongst the character studies is a simple plot where the original bell from the bell tower is discovered in the lake. Its discovery,  while a new modern bell tolls in its place, has some kind of power over the people of the sanctum, who each are able to see with clarity and seek dramatic change.

“This is another moving tale from Murdoch about the fragility of human life but also the drama and inconsistencies that make us all human. Totally adored this read.” – Rachel

Published 1958
Chatto & Windus
319 pages

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