The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

The Black Prince cover

The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch was first published in 1973 and I know that this is one of the few books that I had previously given up on, way back in the 1970s. I can’t remember now why I abandoned it but possibly when I realised it wasn’t historical fiction . I read this one because it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and I’m trying to read as many as those books as I can – a personal project.

I must say that although I can appreciate that it’s well written, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, it took me quite a while to read the 415 pages, about six days probably, just because I was never in a hurry to get back to the story. The book is written in three parts and then has several postscripts from various characters, but during the second part I was tempted to pack it in because I really didn’t like or care what happened to any of the characters.

The main story is told by Bradley Pearson who has recently retired from working in a government tax office. He’s hoping to concentrate on his writing as he has published some books in the past. His closest friend is Arnold Baffin who is a much more successful author and his life becomes entangled with Arnold’s family.

Or does it? Because Bradley isn’t exactly a reliable narrator – or is he? Like many people Bradley rewrites history to suit himself and the postscripts leave the reader none the wiser as other characters throw in their tuppence worth. Basically the reader ends up being judge and jury. Who is telling the truth?

Not for me. I’ll probably give it a three on Goodreads.

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