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Publisher's Summary

A brilliant but deeply flawed man struggles to earn absolution

Hilary Burde was a rising star in academia until a tragic accident plunged him and his mentor and rival, Gunnar Jopling, into two decades of depression and guilt. Hilary, unable to overcome his pain, abandoned his promising career for an unfulfilling job as a civil servant. But at age 41, Hilary crosses paths again with Gunnar - initiating a series of events that will change their lives forever.

Set against a richly drawn backdrop of post-war London, A Word Child is a gripping story of passion and the redemptive power of love.

©1975 Iris Murdoch (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Word Child

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A vortex

Murdochs story takes guilt to the highest level of psychological and moral consideration. The reading by Prebble captures the voices beautifully, and this is a novel of voices, told mainly through dialogue.

6 people found this helpful

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Gifted writing about an unredeemable soul

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I listened to all 14 hrs. of this audio book because of its glittering prose and insight into the complexities of humanhood, but mostly I hoped that something redeemable might surface in the central character. But alas, there was something so inherently "off" in Hilary Burde's very being that neither deprived childhood nor tragic accident could excuse the lens of cruel distain through which his relationships with others are filtered. His unbridled narcissism is that of the sociopath. He reels through his life in a toxic cloud of self-pity, poised to smash and destroy with clenched fists or poison tongue. This unattractive protagonist left me with a bad taste in my mouth at the first line but Murdoch is such an intuitive and gifted writer that I persevered in the withering hope of some sort of epiphany rising like a Phoenix in the final pages. Indeed there was a small glimmer of such but it was too little, too late. I no longer cared. Having spent 14 hours with a bully I was just glad it was over.

What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and Simon Prebble is one of the most gifted readers I have encountered. His performance kept me engaged long after I lost interest in the central character.

Could you see Word Child being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?


5 people found this helpful

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Unforgivable Character & Circumstances

*Spoilers*

I typically don’t mind detestable main characters… I oftentimes will seek out stories where the central character is faced with general dislike from the readership. In the case of Hilary Burde, however, I am engulfed with such an overwhelming sense of pure, undiluted hatred and disgust that I’m not sure I am physically or emotionally able to see this story to its end. His behavior towards others is despicable, yet I could tolerate reading about it, mainly because I’m familiar with the author and the many shades with which she paints her characters, and the level of awareness in which she writes. Yet, when the details of Hilary’s Oxford tragedy were revealed, i was incensed at the minimal amount of attention given to the surviving victims of Hilary’s crimes. I understand that Hilary is psychotically selfish, so maybe he’s not particularly bothered enough to worried allow much or adequate headspace to Gunnar and his son… but I assume all those around him are not psychos in disguise, and fully understand that what took place was not just an unfortunate accident, but the direct results of a man who committed a large number of crimes (despite the “passions” involved, the scene leading up to the accident essentially describe a kidnapping, and barreling down a road at 100+ mph, ending in a wreckage which involved multiple vehicles and the death of a woman and her unborn child). In a logical world, he would have spent the rest of his days, or a few decades at the very least, in prison. For him to eventually conclude that his own presence in the world is not one which is much considered by Gunnar years later, especially following the later demise of his surviving son (I MEAN, HELLO, ARE WE REALLY NOT GOING TO DISCUSS THIS?) is either the clockwork of the utterly insane or just evidence of lazy writing. I feel like the son’s fate was thrown in the mix simply to add a brick to Hilary’s alleged suffering (ha.), and if that’s the case, if we’re not going to shed light where light is due, then please just leave it out of the story altogether.

Let us also consider “Biscuit” (ugh)… the fact that she turned out to be a plant is so illogical bc she was following Hilary from the very beginning, which means Gunnar clearly knew of Hilary’s place of employment long before Hilary was aware that Gunnar was in proximity… and which further muddies the waters on “Lady Kitty’s” motives in “helping” Gunnar move on with his life… it’s all so implausible! Implausible in a way which further tells me it’s just not a well thought out story, not that I’m expected to suspend belief of any kind. I expect so, so much more from Iris Murdoch.

Last note on Biscuit… grabbing her wrists and forcing her onto a train from which she slips out (ESCAPES) at the last minute… echoes the circumstances leading up to the Oxford “accident”, and I’m not entirely sure the author even intended this. Normally, with Murdoch, I would think it was intentional… my personal opinion is this just a badly written story which suspends all logic, and I’m fascinated by the positivity surrounding it.

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Couldn't wait to listen again

Wonderful narrator. He changed his voices so well that it sounded as if there were several readers. The story had so many surprises. I can see why the author received awards.

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Ugh!!!

Unpleasant story about mostly unpleasant people; wasted 15 hours of my time. Beautiful prose; minimal substance!

1 person found this helpful