Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - A Severed Head

This copyrighted image on the book's cover is a detail of a print from
the Poem of the Pillow in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I have to say, I've never read a book like A Severed Head, by Iris Murdoch, before.  Written in a man's voice, by a woman author, with lots of sexual overtones between  family and friends.  The novel was written in the early part of Murdoch’s career; it was later made into a play. 
Murdoch (1919-1999) was an Irish-born British author and philosopher, who won the Booker Prize in 1978 for her novel The Sea, the Sea.   She wrote over 30 novels and plays, five books of philosophy, two books of poems, and one book of short stories. Her work spans the second half of the 20th century. 

A Severed Head is full with surprises.  In the beginning, I could predict when something was about to happen.  But the ending really surprised me.  It sure was a “roller coaster” of a story.  I wonder how Murdoch thought up all the relationships her characters had with each other.  The novel must have been quite risqué when it was published in 1961.  It also deals with some serious issues, such as abortion and suicide.  I don’t want to say too much about it, in case you feel like picking it up.  A little over 200 pages (in paperback) with lots of short chapters, it was an easy read.


tamdoll said...

You gave me enough of a tease that I've added it to my list of books to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

Erika said...

The title throws me off! I think it is great for a woman to write with a male's voice--men seem to think they know what women think!

Jingle said...

powerful review.

storybeader said...

my book club met and we had a lively discussion of this book. We decided the story was full of unlikely incidents and complicated storylines, with characters who weren't really people but philosophical views of morality. And we agreed, novels and philosophy don't mix!

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