Under the Net by Iris Murdoch is a story about a struggling writer Jake Donaghue who, over a few weeks (the period this story is set in), attempts to set right his life. When one wants to go ahead, one needs to rectify the mistakes of the past. One needs to close loose ends, make amends, give due apologies, and then if needed, break ties, to truly be able to move on. Jake attempts to do just that. But what follows in his pursuit of retrospective alteration is a series of hilarious situations, and some surprising revelations, leaving him at a lot different from where he started off or thought he would end at.
After being thrown out by his girlfriend, he goes about finding a new accommodation at his ex (who he strongly believes he still loves and is his destiny) and finds himself faced with an unavoidable situation of having to contact his arch-nemesis, who was also his friend at one point in time. From then on, we traverse through a series of happenings that never cease to take you by surprise.
Take it from me, throughout the novel, you will never be able to guess the turn each chapter takes!
We go from reconciliation with the ex, to meeting old friends and enemies, to stealing, hiding, overhearing conspiracies, cheating, deceit, drunken betting, winning a fortune, destroying a film set, featuring on the front page of the papers, becoming a pauper, running off to another country for just a night, and coming back to start all over again. All this experienced in the good old company of friends and alcohol, and the pearls of philosophy and wisdom that such a combination sets off.
The humour is typically subtle but well woven into the script rather than just the dialogues. The situations combined with the impromptu decisions he takes, keep the reader delighted.
Set in a period alive with the old-world charm of England, Jake’s journey to make sense of his life, makes him connect with every person he thought was significant to him, give that relationship or association its deserved ending and set it off on its path (together or otherwise) and come out of it all alone and the happiest he has been. A clean and fresh start.
I hate solitude, but I’m afraid of intimacy. The substance of my life is a private conversation with myself which to turn into a dialogue would be equivalent to self-destruction. The company which I need is the company which a pub or a cafe will provide. I have never wanted a communion of souls. It’s already hard enough to tell the truth to oneselfIris Murdoch, Under the Net
Witty as the novel is, it keeps the reader engaged and eager to turn the chapter, while at the same time, pausing and re-read certain bits because the introspection revealed then connects with you in a strange way. I find it oddly satisfying when I see what I had in mind, put in words by an author, far better than I would ever have been able to.
Under the Net is a humourous, vividly descriptive adventure, that can take either a weekend or a month, depending on how much you want to pause and muse over.