95. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Under the NetYear Published: 1954
Pages: 286

First sentence: When I saw Finn waiting for me at the corner of the street I knew at once that something had gone wrong.

I'm not too sure where to start with this one. Maybe that it's the first (last?) book on The List written by a woman?

I guess just the typical main character introduction will have to suffice. James Donaghue, called "Jake" in that bizarre old-timey nicknaming convention that turns "John" into "Jack," is a thirty-something Londoner. He has a moderate case of small man syndrome and does translation and writing to earn his living. He also has "shattered nerves," though I'm not entirely sure what that means, except that it gives a good explanation for why he does certain things.

I'm not sure if I can get into the plot at all though, not because it's particularly messy, but because it's sort of amorphous. I'll say at least that it all gets started when Jake returns home to London from Paris, where he got some new novels to translate. He and his servant/companion Peter O'Finney (aka Finn) have been kicked out of their place of residence in Magdalen's (aka Madge's) attic. Jake and Finn go to stay with a philosopher friend until they can find somewhere else to live, and things escalate from there.

The title has some kind of metaphorical significance that's mentioned pretty early on, but it obviously didn't impress me much because I have absolutely no memory of what it was.

Anyway, Under the Net is a good book, it just didn't really captivate me. It meandered, and simmered, and in that way it was a pretty accurate slice of life type of thing. There's a clear sense that this is just one episode in Jake's life, a pretty important one, but certainly not the only one, and not the only one involving these particular people. There is some of that miniscule universe impression you often find in fiction where the only people the protagonist knows are the people in the story, but Jake is a well-realized character who doesn't simply cease to exist at the end of the novel.

So yeah. Not exactly a waste of time, but it didn't really blow me away, either.

There's nothing like a woman's doing you an injury for making her incensed against you. I know myself how exasperating it is of other people to put themselves in positions where you have to injure them.

"I hear you are in a kettle of fish," he said, raising his voice somewhat above the din.

In my experience the spider is the smallest creature whose gaze can be felt.

By now I had just sufficient whiskey in me not to care much one way or the other.

I was really rather of Finn's opinion that one Alsatian dog looks much like another; but then there are some people who can distinguish day-old chicks and Chinamen. (Yeah, you read that right. Good God. -M.R.)

After the dignity of silence and absence, the vulgarity of speech.

"Things don't matter as much as you think."

Rating: 2/3 (meh)

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