Bruno’s Dream (Iris Murdoch)

Bruno's Dream It seems like I’ve been hearing about Iris Murdoch since I was a child, but only got round to actually reading some of her works recently. Bruno is a dying man at the center of a variety of complex relationships. One day Bruno asks to see his estranged son, Miles. This sets off a series of events culminating in a pistol duel and a great flood.

The book kicks off with Bruno on his death-bed, reflecting on his life, the women he loved, his children and his love of spiders. He is also deeply attached to his stamp collection. Whilst the spiders are a small theme throughout, the complex web of interconnected characters is most definitely a reference to the web spinning of the arachnid kind. He suspects his caregivers of not really wanting to look after him for the sake of his health, but rather for his material possessions. Bruno’s illness has affected his mind, so that a lot of the time he doesn’t remember who he is talking to. Past memories are more real than the people around him, so he misses the dramatic events which occur in the lives of the other characters, prompted by the return of Miles to the fold.

It gets pretty melodramatic at times, and you can’t be sure if it is all a fantastic dream or reality. Everyone seems to be falling in love with people they shouldn’t, finding out that others have been in love with them for years etc. Then there are more unnoticed, malevolent and scary suitors, duels and rival sisters than you can shake a stick at. Water, (perhaps symbolizing human emotion?) in this case the Thames, threatens to overwhelm everyone yet it also has the power to cleanse or wipe the slate clean. All this whirlwind of emotion with a dying man at the centre of it, wondering about the meaning of his life as he nears its final curtain, with more than his fair share of guilt adding to his pain.

I really liked the structure of this – the way the story unfolded through the alternating characters’ points of view. There were lots of plot twists that kept me interested throughout. Murdoch fleshed out the characters enough to keep them from falling into stereotypes. Despite this, their eccentric behavior does give the story a high brow, soap – opera vibe at times, which is definitely not my kind of thing. But ultimately I could see where they were coming from and why they were so screwed up. The whole tone of the novel is a sort of gentle pathos shot through with some humour to relieve some of the tedium that these people’s love lives generate. I recommend it because Iris Murdoch certainly could feel things deeply, and communicate some of the human condition to the reader in a natural way.

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Comments

  1. Oooh one to add to the list! And love the sketch of Iris Murdoch

    Liked by 1 person

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