A Severed Head – Iris Murdoch

a-severed-headREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Jo

A Severed Head is a 1961 satirical novel about marriage, adultery and deception within a group of civilised and educated people. The six characters are unpleasant, their morals questionable and their actions immoral especially the main character, 41 year old Martin Lynch-Gibbon.

Martin is having an affair yet becomes upset to learn his wife has also been sleeping around. He becomes crazed and erratic attempting to keep both his mistress and his wife in his life, to the point that he becomes a kind of errand boy for his wife’s lover.

As the six characters continually swap partners, the study of infidelity, insanity and deception only deepens, keeping the reader on their toes as to who is banging who and who is telling what level of lies.

“I said, “Your brother is in bed with my wife.” I added, “I just took them up some wine in bed.”

● Despite the fact the characters are all deceptive and undertaking adulterous affairs they are deliciously infuriating, making for a beguiling read. They are very British, portray little emotion, even when in delicate situations making them textured fictional creations. The level of lies and facade-wearing is realistic in normal human behaviour and I enjoyed attempting to dissect the characters’ complexities. This is a book where the web of lies has been so expertly spun, it was weirdly a complete joy to read about such craziness!” – Rachel

Published 1961
Chatto and Windus
251 pages

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