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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Flight from the Enchanter

Iris Murdoch

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To purchase The Flight from the Enchanter

Title: The Flight from the Enchanter
Author: Iris Murdoch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1956
Length: 287 pages
Availability: The Flight from the Enchanter - US
The Flight from the Enchanter - UK
The Flight from the Enchanter - Canada
The Flight from the Enchanter - India
Die Flucht vor dem Zauberer - Deutschland
L'incantatore - Italia

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Our Assessment:

B : well-written but an odd mix of stories

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 27/3/1956 Anna Bostock
New Statesman . 31/3/1956 Maurice Richardson
The NY Times Book Rev. A 15/4/1956 Aileen Pippett
The Spectator . 30/3/1956 Daniel George
Time . 15/5/1956 .
TLS B 6/4/1956 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "(P)reposterous and enchanting. (...) Characters and incidents in this odd story all have a double and deceptive quality: crystal clear but reflecting darkness, liable to explode in farce yet stirring a feeling of uneasy melancholy, realistic and enigmatic." - Aileen Pippett, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The author tosses her symbols with a conjurer's cynical eye for the audience. The book is brilliant in detail, lit by a woman's sharp eye for gesture and the shape and condition of others' clothes and faces. In between the dilemmas and existentialist mazes, there is a great tragicomic talent at work, and readers who fail to take a pass or two at Murdoch's Minotaur will miss some fine and frenzied fun." - Time

  • "Most readers will probably find something in The Flight from the Enchanter to amuse or interest them, yet few possibly will have any great feeling of satisfaction when they put it down." - Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Flight from the Enchanter tells several stories. Lives and events do overlap, but not especially neatly, and often the novel has the feel of not knowing quite in which direction it wants to go.
       There is a rich cast of characters. Most significant -- though he figures more in the background -- is, perhaps, the mysterious Misha Fox. He exerts what seems to be an undue influence on almost all he comes in contact with; indeed, several characters become all aflutter merely when they hear he is back in London. He casts his grand -- and both enchanting and dark -- shadow over all. (The Flight from the Enchanter is dedicated to Elias Canetti (Murdoch's pre-John Bayley beau) and Misha is in many respects (especially in his dominating fashion) very Canetti-like.)
       Other players include young Annette, with whose decision to leave her finishing school and "enter the School of Life" the novel commences. From a last fling on the school chandelier to her encounters with Fox to her flitting from hotel to hotel she manages to experience (if not learn) a great deal. She has a fair number of adventures, making for some entertaining episodes -- and by the end she has actually begun to find her way.
       Another story line is that surrounding the Artemis, a small independent periodical run by Hunter Keepe -- which Misha Fox apparently wants to buy. The Artemis is an odd little publication, pretty much on its last legs. It was established to support the advancement and emancipation of women (and all the stockholders are women), but has long since mutated into something different. None of the stockholders appear at annual meetings, and Hunter does pretty much as he pleases with the magazine. It seems more trouble than it is worth -- but no one really wants it to fall into Misha Fox's hands either.
       Hunter's sister, Rosa, tries to drum up support from the existing stockholders to prevent a sale, leading her to the eccentric but wealthy (and champagne-quaffing) Mrs. Wingfield. The efforts to save the magazine, especially when Mrs. Wingfield is involved, make for some nice entertaining set pieces in the novel.
       Rosa is also a figure with a few complications in her life. There is a Misha Fox connection -- she could have married him. Now, aside from worrying over her brother's magazine, she is also torn between factory work and the Polish Lusiewicz-brothers, Jan and Stefan. The brothers start out as "Rosa's secret": she helped them with their English, "protected them, guided them". The relationships get considerably more complex, and the secret gets out (along with some compromising photographs).
       And there are yet more characters. There is John Rainborough, a civil servant (i.e. bureaucrat) at SELIB where office politics dominate rather than any attempt to really get anything done (which works out for both better and worse). There is Calvin Blick, the man arranging the purchase of the Artemis (by any means at his disposal). There is Nina the dressmaker, too isolated, ultimately, for her own good. And more.

       A load of characters and a fill of stories. There is entertainment galore, including some very broad humour (near-slapstick, practically). And Murdoch wields her pen well: the writing is strong throughout, the pieces nicely presented, thoughts well-expressed. But it doesn't quite add up to a novel. It is too diffuse and too full, and the one character that could dominate it -- Misha Fox -- isn't allowed to.
       Entertaining but not entirely satisfying.

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The Flight from the Enchanter: Reviews: Iris Murdoch: Other books by Iris Murdoch under review: Books about Iris Murdoch under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review
  • See Index of Philosophy under review

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About the Author:

       Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) studied at Oxford and Cambridge, and was a fellow of St. Anne's College, Oxford. She published twenty-six novels and won the Booker Prize in 1978.

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