Edward Lannion, the young master of Hatting Hall, is about to marry Marian Fox.
At Penndean, a nearby house, preparations are under way for the wedding, overseen by the anxious Benet. Family and friends gather together for a celebratory dinner on the eve of the ceremony. The night is warm and clear, and after dinner the guests walk in the grounds and under the stars, full of happy anticipation.
But then there is a sudden and extraordinary event, which changes everything.
Iris Murdoch's novel is a marvellous and compelling human comedy. Edward and Marian, the couple at the centre of the story, are led by events to learn the truth about themselves; in the process, their friends, and lovers, are forced to make new choices, and see things as they are.
And watching over all of them is Jackson, Benet's servant, a dark, mysterious and dangerous presence. It is Jackson who must intervene in the story to set the two young lovers onto the right path.
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!