Teen, YA or Older Reader Unicorn Book Feature- The Unicorn (Vintage Classics) by Iris Murdoch
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY STEPHEN MEDCALF
When Marian Taylor takes the post of governess at Gaze castle, remote house on a beautiful but desolate coast, she finds herself confronted with many strange mysteries. What kind of crime or catastrophe in the past still keeps the house under a brooding spell? And is her employer Hannah an innocent victim, a guilty woman, a lunatic, or a witch?
A brilliant mythical drama about well-meaning people trapped in a war of spiritual forces
Marian Taylor, who has come as a “companion” to a lovely woman in a remote castle, becomes aware that her employer is a prisoner, not only of her obsessions, but of an unforgiving husband.
Hannah, the Unicorn, seemingly an image of persecuted virtue, fascinates those who surround her, some of whom plan to rescue her from her dream of redemptive suffering. But is she an innocent victim, a guilty woman, a mad woman, or a witch? Is her spiritual life really some evil enchantment? If she is forcibly liberated will she die? The ordinary, sensible people survive, and are never sure whether they have understood.
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A Couple of Reviews To Help You Choose
Andrew Schonbek5.0 out of 5 stars Ethereal Strands of Intrigue and Enchantment Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2006Verified Purchase Marian Taylor has been engaged as governess at Gaze Castle, set on a remote and lonely faraway coastline. The tale begins with her growing sense of foreboding as she realizes that she been separated from the normal and understandable world. Instead, she finds herself in a web of murky forces, among a group of strange people living with a dark, unspoken secret.
At the center of the enchantment is Hannah Crean-Smith, the beautiful and mysterious lady of the castle. Marian soon learns that she is held in thrall, captive but willing, suffering but serene. While Marian’s natural impulse is to fight for Hannah’s freedom, she ultimately discovers that the forces of confinement are relentless, immovable, and overwhelming.
Murdoch portrays good and evil with a mastery that is uncanny and unsettling. And as always in her work, the writing in and of itself is powerful and evocative. The following description of a short trip from Gaze to a nearby town serves as an example…
Kat rated it really liked it Shelves: 2012 Excuse me, Ms. Murdoch, but your philosophy slip is showing 🙂
I found this slim novel pretty delightful, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t really understand a lot of the existential philosophy getting bandied about. However, that didn’t detract at all from the storyline for me—I knew it was making my poor brain work a little harder to find clarity.
Murdoch has created quite the allegorical and mythological gothic story, full of allusions to unicorns, vampires, mermaids, Maid Marian, Christ, a captive princess—and all in the name of discussing the true nature of good and evil, guilt and redemption, duty and honor, self-imprisonment vs. being held captive, external and internal forces controlling one’s life, what it means to live, what it means to die, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a heavy book. The story is lively, the characters are strange and intriguing and the plot is kind of weird.
And Murdoch’s writing, well, l love it. Here’s an example: “Tears gathered in his eyes and he blinked to release them. They were large still tears such as men weep in solitude over beautiful things. To weep like that over a human being was a most desolate homage.”
Quiet and gentle yet menacing all the same. Well done Murdoch.
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