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I don t think I ve ever read another book with quite such a convincingly fully fleshed cast of characters This is my first Murdoch, but I assume this ensemble psychological interplay stuff was her thing, seeing as she did it so well here This is one of those books that makes you realise you could never be a writer, because some people really are just so damned good at itI can t say that I loved TSaPLM It was engrossing as I was reading it, but whenever I put it down I felt disinclined to pick it back up again It s written in sections of around 5 pages at a time, and each starts with a page or two of updating the reader on the current state of mind of whichever character s turn it is before the next bit of drama unfolds, and this is too often rather tedious, especially on the not infrequent occasions when a dream sequence is shoehorned in On the other hand, whatever personal growth there is to be gleaned from reading the book comes from this psychoanalysis of the characters, which ought at least make you think about the inner lives of others, even if it doesn t make you think about your own motives and traits, which it probably will.It s also surprisingly chaste when it comes down to it, and I m not sure whether that was through authorial preference or peccadillo Finally, I felt the book was about 20% too long, and I m quite relieved to have finished it I will however read of Murdoch s Iris s somehow saying Murdoch just feels wrong work in the not too distant future It s almost soap opera, but soap opera plus And I like a bit of that from time to time. What marks Irish Murdoch s novels is her benevolence The main theme of the novels is love, love requited and unrequited, normal and abnormal Terrible things may occur in her novels or be related by one of her characters but there is no indulgence in evil no presentation of it with malicious intent using realism or plot as a pretext for something unwholesome The driving ambition of her characters is often victory in love Defeat is frequent and harrowing but ultimately her faith in love prevails Her weakness can be that her characters are too obviously instruments of her telling, with little genuine life of their own,an impression which can be compounded by the domination of her intelligence In this respect her novels are arguably unrealistic because the majority of characters in real life do not appear as interesting or as committed to love as characters in her novels But is it not the role of the novelist to highlight character and make it interesting, perhaps even to inspire the reader or beholder to be if not a better character at least a honest one and one determined to live for what one loves Iris Murdoch s world is not a wide one, it is that of twentieth century British member so the upper middle class dealing with the entanglements of the human heart In The Sacred and Profane Love Machine the story focuses on Montague Small a hugely successful writer of detective fiction mourning his late wife, and his neighbour, Blaise Gavender, who is the apex of an eternal triangle Irish Murdoch s depiction of the two women in Blaise s life, his wife and his mistress is sympathetic, acute, remorseless and very intelligent Blaise is confronted with the choice between sacred and profane life and is too weak to make a decision his hopes that he can muddle through and have the best of both worlds mean that he has to leave the fight for him to the two women whose love for him is bewildering to this reviewer but no bewildering than affections in real life Only a deus ex machina solution to Blaise s dilemma jarred for me in this otherwise believable and compelling tale.There is nowt queerer than folk and nothing strange than the heart s affections This is a moving, sad yet finally happy book which succeeds because of the writer s immense sympathy and psychological discernment. You know what You ve killed me and sent me to hell, and you must descend to the underworld to find me and make me live again If you don t come for me, I ll become a demon and drag you down into the dark Iris Murdoch, The Sacred and Profane Love MachineNow, that s the kind of love than is a joy to read about, if not to experience About two pages into this novel, I was ready to propose to this ingenious piece of writing Let s for the purpose of this metaphor imagine I really went searching for the big fat engagement ring, but I forgot to pop the question because I was so engrossed with my love interest i.e in the reading process itself Can I propose now, Iris Long story short, as soon as I started reading I knew I m going to love Iris Murdoch I could feel it in my bones That sweet anticipation, that lovely sensation of having on your knees a book you know will bring you nothing but satisfaction In all honestly, this novel was probably never anywhere close my thighs, thighs area or knees, who reads like that Who it s just the mental image of all those long legged Instagram girls that I can t shake of The characters Has there ever been such a delicious group of selfish, insane and dysfunctional people The way they interact is marvellous The way this novel is written is brilliant They re as real as they can be and delightfully messy in every and any sense possible mental, emotional and social As messy and crazy as possible There really isn t a protagonist, there isn t a character that is at the centre They re all equally important and they will all get a moment to shine.and will they shine in style It is that brutal honesty that I appreciate the most in this novel Nobody is innocent, everyone has an agenda, especially if they themselves don t see it Nothing is certain, people change their lives in a heartbeat It is as Tennessee Williams said, in real life we betray each other in a heartbeat This novel captures that This is real life but at the same time it is also a novel It is life but it is also great writing I could feel for every single character despite their selfishness, possibly just because of their weakness and selfishness, their humanity The way they are stripped down to the very core of their being makes them very human, even when what Iris shows us is the worst aspect of humanity There isn t a hero character in this one, everyone is projecting the guilt onto others and they are all equally lost Everyone is their own demon and torturer Yet there are moments of peace and even moments of grace For all her intellect, Iris is not ice cold You will find emotive parts in this one, but they won t be where you re expecting them No no The novel opens us with a character Blaise He seems like a likeable enough guy His ideas seem fresh How that is going to change His wife Harriet is wonderfully portrayed right from the start There is this warm feeling that accompanies journey into her soul That is actually something that is going to linger For me she remained the person I liked the most Not that Harriet is idolized No, she has her flaws, multiple ones, but she stayed close to my heart for whatever reason I m getting ahead of things Anyway, the opening of the novel is interesting but all in all this seems like a normal family until you discover something about this guy Blaise that happens fairly quickly, Iris doesn t beat around bush in this one Blaise has a mistress In fact, he has a whole another family hidden from sight How shocking This is only the tip of the iceberg For whom Blaise loves is a mystery I m tempted to be the cynic and say probably only himself However, we are perhaps all like Blaise than we would love to admit Perhaps you will be sickened by him the time you finish this novel, but admit it, you would have also felt for him at least at some point in the narrative Not just for him For his mistress, for her courage and her cowardice, for her willingness to settle for less For this neighbour, the writer who can t writer and who can t emotionally connect with anyone Oddly enough , this emotionless writer is the one I most relate to I really liked Harriet too, despite everything, but he is the probably the one I was the most curious about For good reason it seems, because towards the end of the story, this novel suddenly becomes very much about him.It may not seem at first, but trust me, these kind of characters joined together in this kind of story It is something that is hard to find It felt bloody amazing to me I seriously can t think of any novel to compare it.and boy do these characters keep busy The story itself has an astonishing amount of twist and turns Everyone has a secret within a secret within a secret.Yet it is not about secrets One moment of profound soul questioning gets followed by the most banal action on the part of the same character who a moment ago seemed on a verge of enlightment Do you know what It actuallly seems right People act on all kinds of impulses, animalistic ones, emotive and intellectual ones and plain dump ones At times it makes the charters look utterly crazy Which they kind of are And perhaps we all are The question is only who is the craziest one The writer who can t write, the mistress who won t stop at anything, the wife who wants to become a mother to the son of the mistress, her own golden locks son who is looking everywhere for some help but gets ignored by just about anyone Yet they all keep on, boats against current What is the conclusion Life is madness but human are strong and will survive all No Nothing so simple This is not a heart warming exploration of humanity No, this is exploration of worst and best in ourselves Let s say it like this This novel is not here to give you answers about life It will give you so much answers you won t know how to find heads or tail but that is because it recongnized that life isn t simple People are people They act in all kind of ways resulting in all kind of events Now, you know what is a great thing about life At times, there comes a great writer into your life She or he well in this case she gives us the opportunity to laugh at it all She sets us free Thank you for that Iris This novel is delicious It is intelligent without being pretentious, crazy without being over the top and with just the right amount of irony that is an absolute joy to read. I just looked it up in our wonderful Wikipaedia and found that Iris Murdoch wrote 27 novels, the rest of her writings philosophy, plays and poetry I haven t read them all, but by comparison The Sacred and Profane Love Machine stands out from the rest which is also excellent, of course Well, what can I say about Iris Murdoch that hasn t been said before and better What is so very enjoyable in any book by Iris Murdoch is how she uses her vast knowledge, studies, readings in short her knowledge and intelligence to bring about a novel that very much reminds us of authors as, to name but two, Dostoevsky or George Elliot She writes about flawed people, enters into their most secret thoughts and shares with the reader a collection of protagonists who make you by turn despair, embarrassed, angry or full of almost furtive empathy When you dare take a short breath you ll even be invited to giggle from time to time It s a novel I read before, I now read for the second time after some years had passed, and I ll read it again, every time discovering delicious nuances that may have escaped me before It s like a good wine that grows even better with time. I am very mad at this book right now Even though I finished it six months ago Still, angry I think I should give it higher stars, because it was making me think and feel things in ways I don t usually do I was getting kinda crazy I wanted to hurl the book away from me, but it wasn t because it was bad She simply knows how much people and things suck sometimes, and how they suck in a lot of unique and terribly self deceptive ways So, while this book is brilliant about people and deserves way stars, people are so bloody awful that I m sticking with two Grrr. I have tried Iris Murdoch s work several times and have always bogged down and given up This one tempted me to do the same, since it s not the kind of novel that appeals to me it has hardly any plot it s an agonizing situation, repetitively described from multiple characters perspectives, with, finally, some actual events that precipitate a very surprising conclusion one which Murdoch clearly enjoyed, since she fooled the reader with a false one near the end One Goodreads reviewer commented that she really put her characters through the wringer in this one, and that is certainly true Some of the scenes were quite funny, many too dark to be funny at all Exactly what the machine was, and exactly which loves were sacred and which were profane were for me, anyway tantalizingly ambiguous But there were far too many pages repetitively describing the characters self justifications and self serving analyses of what was going on Actual dialogue and confrontation, when it occurred, was vivid and memorable I think the reader could have deduced from these scenes much of what Murdoch went to great lengths to explain in exposition But finally, not a lot of plot, and very few, if any, admirable characters. While reading The Sacred and Profane Love Machine I could not contain my mind from whispering Zelda Fitzgerald s quoteNobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can holdIris Mudoch explores through her characters a world of pain and agony in contrast with inocence, each emotion being closely supervised by each one s conscience Child or adult, gullible or cynicle, characters choose to lie or to accept lies in order to maintain an ordinary life until the unconceivable happens and the war between sacred and profane love starts. Sacred and profane love A man with 2 families his sacred , or legitimate family comprised of his wife and son David, and his profane comprised of his mistress and son Luca These families slowly start to unravel and take the participants down with them Exploration of the meaning of love and neverending quest for the heart s satisfaction. 3.5 A later Murdoch her sixteenth novel and not one I knew anything about beforehand In terms of atmosphere, characters and themes, it struck me as a cross between A Severed Head and The Nice and the Good Like the former, it feels like a play with a few recurring sets Hood House, where the Gavenders Blaise, Harriet and David live their next door neighbor Montague Small s house and the apartment where Blaise keeps his mistress, Emily McHugh, and their eight year old son Luca A sizeable dramatis personae radiates out from the central love triangle lodgers, neighbors, other family members, mutual friends and quite a few dogs.Blaise is a psychoanalyst but considers himself a charlatan because he has no medical degree he s considering returning to his studies to rectify that Harriet reminded me of Kate from The Nice and the Good a cheerful, only mildly unfulfilled matriarch who is determined to choreograph much of what happens around her She wanted simply to feel the controls firmly in her hands She wanted to be the recognizer, the authorizer, the welcomer in, the one who made things respectable and made them real by her cognizance of them Their son David, 16, looks like a Pre Raphaelite god and is often disgusted by fleshly reality Montague writes successful but formulaic detective novels and is mourning his wife s recent death.I loved how on first introduction to most characters we hear about the dreams from which they ve just awoken, involving mermaids, cats, dogs and a monster with a severed head Dreams are rather marvellous, aren t they, David remarks to Monty They can be beautiful in a special way like nothing else Even awful things in dreams have style Scenes often open with dreams that feel so real to the characters that they could fool readers into belief.Blaise knows he can t sustain his double life, especially after Luca stows away in his car on a couple of occasions to see Hood House When he confesses to Harriet via a letter, she seems to handle things very well In fact, she almost glows with self righteous pride over how reasonably she s been responding But both she and Emily end up resentful Why should Blaise win by keeping his wife and his mistress You must feel like the Sultan of Turkey, Emily taunts him You ve got us both You ve got away with it Here starts a lot of back and forth, will they won t they that gets somewhat tedious Throughout I noticed overlong sections of internal monologue and narrator commentary on relationships.There s a misperception, I think, that Murdoch wrote books in which not much happens, simply because her canvas can be small and domestically oriented However, this is undoubtedly an eventful novel, including a Shocking Incident Foreshadowing had alerted me that someone was going to die, but it wasn t who or how I thought When it comes to it, Murdoch is utterly matter of fact X had perished.One of the pleasures of reading a Murdoch novel is seeing how she reworks the same sorts of situations and subjects Here I enjoyed tracing the mother son relationships at least three of them, two of which are quite similar smothering and almost erotic Harriet later tries to subsume Luca into the family, too I also looked out for the recurring Murdochian enchanter figure first Blaise, for whom psychiatry is all about power, and then Harriet.I hugely enjoyed the first 100 pages or of the book, but engaged with it less and less as it went on Ultimately, it falls somewhere in the middle for me among the Murdochs I ve read for a full ranking and links to all my previous reviews, see my blog.A favorite passage this is Monty on the perils of working from home If I had an ordinary job to do I d have to get on with it Being self employed I can brood all day It s undignified and bad Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck. ^Free E-pub ↛ The Sacred and Profane Love Machine ✔ Swinging Between His Wife And His Mistress In The Sacred And Profane Love Machine And Between The Charms Of Morality And The Excitements Of Sin, The Psychotherapist, Blaise Gavender, Sometimes Wishes He Could Divide Himself In Two Instead, He Lets Loose Misery And Confusion And For The Spectators At Any Rate A Morality Play, Rich In Reflections Upon The Paradoxes Of Human Life And The Nature Of The Battle Between Sacred And Profane Love