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Another Murdochian, devilishly intricate, richly resonant human comedy--which, as always, is webbed with shadowy, tantalizing philosophic/mythic inferences. Here, a circle, a ""brotherhood,"" of friends--energized by post-Oxfordian, somewhat dilettantish intellectuals, a Parnassus of cosseted sensibility and cherished interdependence--are demonically aroused by a former comrade and come to witness and participate in acts both dreadful and dreadfully stupid. ""To go near Crimond is to go near death,"" smolders smoldering Jean, who will twice leave Duncan, her wounded bear of a husband, to become the lover of the brilliant, ascetic, arrogant Crimond. Certainly Crimond, who danced ""like a god"" at an Oxford ball, is a burning, shocking problem to the brotherhood, who had long ago (years, in fact) decided to support him financially while he wrote his masterwork, a neo-Marxist global prognosis. It's Gerard (who fancies himself a ""leader and healer"") who leads the liberals' delicate campaign to find out just what is evolving in the Book--and also to return Jean to Duncan. Among those worrying and scurrying: peace-loving Rose, who has always loved Gerard--whose love has now descended on schoolmaster Jenkin. Unlike Gerard, the moral voyager, Jenkin--who roars with pleasing laughter at Gerard's courting--is one content to ""exist where he is."" There's also young Tamar, wracked by a sense of unworthiness and a horrid mother; Tamar experiences a hell of guilt after the abortion of Duncan's child, but she will be ""liberated"" via Anglican Fr. McAllister--who gasps for (as in a way the others do) Belief within non-belief. Meanwhile, perennially unemployed Gulliver and poverty-raised Lily moth about the Circle, but are blessed with a knowledge of ""ordinariness."" A terrible murder shakes all, and all feel guilt, although no one but the principals will learn of its circumstances--or the botched double-suicide plan in which two ""gods,"" in their ""impossible love,"" come a cropper. In spite of the fatuousness and foolishness, no one here is entirely a fool or a saint, or hero or victim, but a mix as baffling as the confusion of accident and that mystic ""connectedness"" that clouds the planet. One of Murdoch's finest.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0140104704
Publisher: Viking