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UrbanCoffeeCo bookclub: The Bell by Iris Murdoch (review and bookclub questions)

So, the book club choice for March (The Bell) has been decided for ages, as we agreed to be the guinea pigs for my friend Liz’s research piece into how book clubs respond to Iris Murdoch.  I have to admit I was a little concerned by this, as I thought it was going to be a bit of a tough read.  Turns out I was really wrong.  The book is very readable, or as I exclaimed to Liz early in the month “I’ve started it and I don’t hate it”.  And as a bonus for me, this counts towards the British Book Challenge!

The Bell is one of those books where not a lot happens until the end and then there’s a little bit of a plot, but is more about the characters than a traditional beginning-middle-end resolution novel.  If I tried to explain what happens in the book, I would do it no favours and wouldn’t really do justice to it.  But the characters, from Dora, flighty girl trapped in a marriage with a controlling older man to Michael, leader of the community who is struggling with his sexuality, are complex and interesting.  And the themes; repression, goodness and attitudes to faith, are all really really interesting and make for a fantastic book club discussion.

That said, whilst I’m glad I read it and for the most part enjoyed it, I read it in three sections, as it wasn’t one of those books that made me go back to it, but once I was reading it I sped through quite quickly.  And at times there was a little too much description for me.

As this was part of a research piece, we already had a few questions I was asked to put to the group, but there were a few of my own and ones that cropped up:

  • What did you think of the book?
  • What did you feel was the book’s message – did it have a point?
  • What did you think were the main themes?
  • What did you think of Dora’s character? And Toby‘s?
  • Did you see a parallel between any of the characters relationships?
  • Did you have any expectations before reading the book?
  • Had you read any Iris Murdoch before?
  • Would you read any more now?
  • Would you recommend this to a friend and/or another book club?

Next month we’ll be reading Solar by Ian McEwan – another book that will count to the book challenge!

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