A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

A Severed Head

Having thoroughly enjoyed Murdoch’s Under the Net, I was expecting another grand slam, but, alas, it was not to be.  Its satirical take on wealthy Londoners sexcapades in the 1960’s  just missed the mark and instead left behind unsympathetic characters whose fates were of no concern to this reader.

Perhaps too much time on one’s hands can lead one down the road of immorality.  Such is this case here with adultery, incest, suicide with a dash of psychoanalysis, shopping and, of course, drinking.

Martin Lynch-Gibbons, the central character, is so self-absorbed that he fails to see the signs of his wife’s affairs (yes, plural) and while keeping his own mistress, fails to acknowledge his own missteps until he is found out.  He falls for the sister of his wife’s lover who is a creepy wannabe sexual enigma.  This guy needs a good slap of reality to wake  him out of his apathetic coma.

Martin’s wife, Antonia, is an annoying woman who justifies her own behavior, likely arisen from her own ennui.  An affair with her psychoanalyst and brother-in-law aren’t enough to keep her happy so she decides to dump the doc and keep the husband and his brother.  Too many spoilers?  I’m doing you a favor so you won’t have to read it through…

Honor Klein, sister to Antonia’s psychoanalyst, is a conniving sexual predator who likes to sleep with her brother and doesn’t mind getting smacked around.  Ughh…this one made my skin crawl, like however many shades of grey (no, didn’t read em).


In almost every marriage there is a selfish and an unselfish partner.

Violence, except on the screen, is always pathetic, ludicrous, and beastly.

Conversations relating to the sexual revolution would be off-limits for my meeting with Ms. Murdoch.  Instead, I’d turn to her view on communism and ask how she viewed today’s world.

My rating for A Severed Head is a 6 out of 10.

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Next up, Joseph Heller’s Closing TimeClosing Time


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