With a bank holiday approaching and no open pubs in sight, Rob Crossan rounds up the finest literary ones to indulge in, instead.
Funny, subversive, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. To celebrate the centenary of her birth, here's our guide to help you pick which Murdoch book to read first – or last!
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919. She read Classics at Somerville College, Oxford, and after working in the Treasury and abroad, was awarded a research studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1948 she returned to Oxford as fellow and tutor at St Anne’s College and later taught at the Royal College of Art. Until her death in 1999, she lived in Oxford with her husband, the academic and critic, John Bayley. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 and in the 1997 PEN Awards received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net. Her twenty-six novels include the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978), the James Tait Black Memorial prize-winning The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread prize-winning The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her philosophy includes Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953) and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); other philosophical writings, including The Sovereignty of Good (1970), are collected in Existentialists and Mystics (1997). Avril Horner is Emeritus Professor of English at Kingston University, London. She writes on women authors and Gothic fiction; her publications include co-authored books on Daphne du Maurier and Edith Wharton. With Anne Rowe she co-edited Iris Murdoch and Morality (2010) and Iris Murdoch: Texts and Contexts (2012). Anne Rowe is Associate Professor of English Literature and Director of the Iris Murdoch Archive Project at Kingston University. She is Lead Editor of the Iris Murdoch Review and her publications include The Visual Arts and Iris Murdoch (2002) and, with Priscilla Martin, Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life (2011).