The greatest shortcoming of this book is its terrible lack of ECONOMY. I have to confess to a morbid fascination with it, even though there is much to detest about Murdoch's style, her content and especially her characters. The only saving grace I've discovered in this collection of unpleasant people is their vaunted cleverness -- which renders them even more abhorrent. And there are so damn MANY of them: Murdoch gleefully explores the entire family history of each resident of her screwball imaginary town, back to at least two or three generations, whether they have any relevance to the narrative or not. Add to that her irksome la-di-dah interjection of bon mots à la française and parenthetic asides and it's hard for me to explain why I continued to wade through about 265 pages of "set-up" before her narrative finally got going. I kept hoping that at least one sympathetic character would emerge out of this menagerie of misanthropes, sycophants, schemers, sociopaths, misfits, social climbers, whiners, poseurs .... you get the picture. Or that someone would do the right thing and murder George, the disgusting, drunken psychopath before long even though he appeared to be the main protagonist. Murdoch spends nearly a hundred pages exploring George's personality and motives, even though her one sentence "He saw the world as a conspiracy against him and himself as a victim of cosmic injustice" probably would have sufficed.
Bottom line: Murdoch's self-indulgence (permitted by her editors, to their discredit) impairs what could otherwise have been an engrossing story, namely the complex relationship among George, Tom, Hattie and Rozenov.
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