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Iris and her friends : a memoir of memory and desire /

Main Author: Bayley, John, 1925-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : W.W. Norton, 2000
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

In Elegy for Iris (1998), Bayley commemorated his love for his wife of more than 50 years, the brilliant writer Iris Murdoch, portraying her at the height of her powers and in the clutches of Alzheimer's. As the story continues, Murdoch descends into an ever-darker world, but Bayley is flooded with the light of "pre-Iris" memories. These transfixing visions are compensatory pleasures, he freely admits, that make his arduous caretaking tolerable. And so Bayley writes voluptuously of his boyhood: of seaside rambles, fondness for a glum Danish cook, and delight in a toy sailboat. Even as a young man, Bayley was dreamy and oblivious to the rough and tumble of the world, and he presents himself as an innocent in war and romance, but clearly he rules in the realms of literature and love. As his shimmering reminiscences catch up to the present, they play in moving counterpoint to Murdoch's last days, and one can only hope that Bayley will continue to press the flowerings of his memory into the warm embrace of books. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bayley scored an unexpected hit with last year's eloquent and deeply affecting Elegy for Iris, in which he spoke of his life with the celebrated novelist Iris Murdoch, both before and after she developed the Alzheimer's disease that finally, after five long years, killed her in February 1999. This new memoir appears in the wake of Murdoch's death and takes brief note of it, though much of it had been written by Bayley, while propped up beside his sleeping wife, in their last, desperate months together. As before, the details of how a loving mate deals with a complete mental withdrawal are at once horrific and touching, and blessed with Bayley's awkward grace. There is nothing much new to add to Elegy in the writing about their strange togetherness in the face of utmost adversity, however, and the title is more than a little misleading. What is new is the flights of memory that prompt Bayley to feel his way back to his own childhood and army days. The closeness and delicacy of his recall is almost hallucinatoryÄhe brings long-forgotten prewar English landscapes and ways of life back with astounding vividnessÄand his accounts of wartime and peacetime life in the British army are as hilariously observant as the best of Evelyn Waugh, though quite without the undertone of bitter rancor. Bayley is a splendid memoirist, who has now said all that needs to be said about Murdoch. How about a new volume that is just about him? If this is anything to go by, it would be as compelling in its way as Angela's Ashes. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In a world awash with bad memoirs, here comes Bayley's new book to remind us of the luxuriant and absurd possibilities of language and living together. Bayley follows his remarkable Elegy for Iris with more memories of his own life and his time with his wife, Iris Murdoch, who was living through the final stages of Alzheimer's disease as he wrote this. Bayley's eye for what is not obvious glimmers. He drifts through boyhood on the golf links along the English coast, his escapades as a young soldier in war-torn Germany, and a stammering romance at Oxford. He revisits favorite books, places, and people, exposing the human scale of the courage it takes to keep to the demands of a home. How rare it is these days that a reviewer gets to write, "This book succeeds with every sentence"Äand this book does. Graceful and insightful, it balances modesty with generosity. Recommended for all libraries.ÄScott Hightower, Fordham Univ., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Sweet memories of the distant past are juxtaposed with present agonies as Bayley, a retired Oxford don, novelist, and critic, concludes the story of wife, Iris Murdoch's struggle with Alzheimer's disease in this piercing follow-up to Elegy for Iris (1998). Unlike Elegy, which covered more of Bayley's life with Murdoch, this memoir focuses on the terminal stage of Alzheimer's'and the means of mental escape that caretakers devise for themselves lest they be consumed by isolation and regret. In harrowing detail, it traces the regression of Murdoch, one of the most brilliant novelists of the postwar period, to a childlike state'banging on windows, making cooing sounds while being fed by her husband, escaping from home, and confinement to a nursing home'before her death this past February. 'As her condition worsens,' Bayley notes, 'and our imprisonment becomes more complete, the compensations mount up'they have to.' Memory is one of the 'friends' he gratefully seizes, with his mind roaming back to the days before his marriage: to childhood vacations at Littlestone-on-Sea, an English seaside resort; service as a lieutenant in WWII; a postwar flirtation with a young German woman and a romance with a former postulant; and his courtship of Murdoch. Bayley seems as forthright in detailing his own frustration as in chronicling Murdoch's final days, describing his inner rage, suppressed violent impulses, psychic separation from the woman he has known for nearly a half-century, the impending loneliness he knows will follow her death, and his breakdown after more than five years of watching the disease. The scenes of Bayley's youth and early manhood are not as vivid as Elegy's recreation of the earlier kind, loving Murdoch, or of the friends and university life she shared with Bayley. This memoir successfully conveys, however, how mutual affection and respect solidify into a tenderness and commitment that cannot be sundered by adversity. A moving final tribute to the healing force of memory and the sustaining power of love.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.