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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

Vintage Classics Murdoch: Funny, subversive, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch was one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary, Vintage Classics presents special editions of her greatest and most timeless novels.

A lay community of thoroughly mixed-up people is encamped outside Imber Abbey, home of an enclosed order of nuns. A new bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered. Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to her husband. Michael Mead, leader of the community, is confronted by Nick Fawley, with whom he had disastrous homosexual relations, while the wise old Abbess watches and prays and exercises discreet authority. And everyone, or almost everyone, hopes to be saved whatever that may mean... Iris Murdoch's funny and sad novel is about religion, the fight between good and evil and the terrible accidents of human frailty.

©1958 Iris Murdoch (P)2011 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Bell

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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 04-09-20

An uneven book gets a great reading

A small lay religious community living beside a closed order of Benedictine nuns forms the context for the uneven story told in this novel from the 1950s. And, yes, it is showing its age. Dated references and attitudes seem uninportant in great books, but this is not a great book. At times it is a good one, but those times only serve to indicate that Iris Murdoch's best work lay in the future.

The real triumph to be found is Miriam Margolyes' superb reading. She brings every character to life with her mercurial talent. The end result is closer to a fine radio play than a conventional book reading.

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  • Broxgirl
  • 29-08-20

A classic masterpiece

What I noticed while listening to The Bell was the way in which things and events are described. Iris Murdoch uses a rich turn of phrase which embodies the work as if being painted in bright colours upon a canvas. It’s even seeping into the ether as I write this review.

A slow and meandering and fully immersive story of a bell and a group of people in a order who bring with them all the trials and emotions of their past lives.

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  • Padmaja
  • 29-09-19

A delightful story brilliantly told!

Enjoyed every bit of this enchanting story, delightfully told. there are flashes of humour interspersed with poignant moments; Murdoch's insights into what makes us human are precious.

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  • Karen
  • 03-10-12

Absolute pleasure

What an odd and delightful mind Iris Murdoch had. Her intelligent writing, beautifully descriptive prose and colourful imagination make her stories unique, and read by Miriam Margoyles this was pure joy. I agree with the previous reviewer, if Miriam had narrated all of Murdoch's books, I would download them all. I pitied poor Dora in the possession of such an appalling husband......but presented at a time when women had fewer choices she tries her best to rebel.

9 people found this helpful

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  • JF7588
  • 11-06-12

This is a pleasure!

Margolyse should read every Murdoch novel - her voice catches the comedy and the cleverness: note perfect.

8 people found this helpful

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  • H. Weekes
  • 12-08-15

My first Iris Murdoch, am now a huge fan

What did you like best about this story?

The amazing descriptive language. It's all it's quite beautiful.

What does Miriam Margoyles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Miriam Margolyes makes this story for me. The range of different voices and characterations she brings to the narration is amazing. I just love her.

Any additional comments?

This book reflects the attitudes of the time, however, the opening chapters which describe married life for a young woman, are so well written and structured it struck such a chord.

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  • Alcidae
  • 16-11-20

Wonderful story

I love Iris Murdoch's books and I really enjoyed this. The characters are very well fleshed out and all are treated with insight and even-handedness by Murdoch. They are often capable of surprising the reader in ways still entirely consistent with their character. The tension increases in the last third of the book. It was published in 1958 so it's set in the not-so-distant English past. Miriam Margolyes reads it well and suits the book.

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  • Morganrandg
  • 25-10-20

Excellent in every way.

I read a number of Iris Murdoch’s books in my teens but this one was my favourite. I fell in love with the characters portrayed in the TV series, especially Ian Holm and the lovely Michael Maloney. The story is beguiling and truly unique.
Thank you Miriam Margolyes for your magnificent narration.

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  • Arty1
  • 05-08-20

Haunting story

Miriam Margolyes is a superb narrator of this story and captures the range of characters perfectly, doing absolute justice to the complexities of the relationships. I read "The Sea, the Sea" prior to "The Bell" and preferred the former's overall themes. But "The Bell" does ponder the questions of personal happiness vs the duties towards others and the community. It asks questions about our moral responsibilities towards each other and explores the nature of homosexual love within the context of the era. I am glad, however, that I did not select it as my first Murdoch read, which was "Under the Net" and which I found more captivating.

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  • Katharine
  • 03-08-20

A Great British Writer and a Brilliant Narrator

I had heard that Murdoch was a good writer and when I saw that Miriam Margolyes was narrating this book I was hooked.
I enjoyed the story - I was struck by how nuanced Murdoch's characters are. She shows real compassion for them as they are bound by the social strictures of their time.
The plot is intruiging and Margolyes narration is sublime as ever.

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  • Georgina
  • 29-04-20

Fabulous rendition of an thought provoking book

This was my introduction to Iris Murdoch and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole. Miriam Margolyes’ excellent narration brought to life a, by turns, comic and tragic cast of characters. Dickensian humour and pathos, and Trollope’s ability to capture the atmosphere, or tension of a given moment. She didn’t give in to the temptation to capitalise on somewhat gothic setting. Although I half wanted her to! The drama comes from psychology versus ideas and the mystery of the individual.

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  • Reader
  • 25-08-19

recommended

This is not a book I would have read but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a bedtime story. Miriam Margoyles is just wonderful!

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  • discerning reader
  • 08-08-17

Engrossing intelligent book

Really captivated by this book which is both serious and hilarious about the human condition. Miriam Margoles takes on the voices of men and women with ease and made it very easy to conjure up each person. Loved the character of Dora, an anti-heroine who so easily loses the plot she can go to a station to reclaim a lost suitcase and leave it in the pub on the way home. Very funny and tense as the members of an alternative community stumble into each other with unanticipated results. Very sad and fiercely drawn portrait of the homosexual leader tortured by his religious beliefs of sin.A book both humorous and compassionate and wise. Unputdownable.

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  • Rochelle
  • 07-06-16

Wonderful book, slight sound issues

Any additional comments?

Dora Greenfield leaves her husband because she is afraid of him. She then returns to him for the same reason. At this point her husband Paul (a very unpleasant man) is living in a community near Imber Abbey. When Dora arrives at the community it appears that hers is the only unhealthy relationship, however that's not quite the case.

The story is at times disturbing as we see characters behaving badly and justifying it to themselves and others. Together they manage to remain blind to the worst of their hypocrisies.

Murdoch's writing is beautiful and a pleasure to listen to. I would highly recommend her books to everyone who enjoys great writing. If you've enjoyed Austen, the Brontes and Virginia Woolf you will love Iris Murdoch. Her style is exceptional.

Miriam Gargoyles is the perfect choice to narrate this book. She has the right accent and tone to match this classic. Her timing is spot on.

Apart from minor issues the sound is good quality. Occasionally the sound will be only from one channel and switch between left and right. It's infrequent and while distracting it doesn't last long. There's other rare distortion, but don't let the relatively minor sound quality issues put you off. The rest of the recording has been cleaned up beautifully. It's worth putting up with the minor sound issues in order to have the pleasure of this incredible read.

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 08-01-17

Superb reading of modern classic

If you could sum up The Bell in three words, what would they be?

Philosophical, spiritual, relationships. This was one of my favourite books of the 60s, beautifully read.

What other book might you compare The Bell to, and why?

Women in Love - for the intense relationships, contemporary issues (of that time), and spiritual dimension.

Which character – as performed by Miriam Margoyles – was your favourite?

Dora Greenfield

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The world and its problems impinge on a religious community

Any additional comments?

I can't really imagine a film being made of The Bell - this book explores the inner lives of characters, perhaps too much for modern tastes. In some ways the novel has dated obviously, but this did not worry me, since I was so fond of it from way back.