Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch
Under the Net is a delightful, breezy novel starring Jake Donaghue, a little-known writer who gets by on translation work. When he and his friend Finn are kicked out of the apartment they’d been crashing rent-free, he seeks out his blues-singing ex-girlfriend Anna Quentin in a fit of homeless desperation. So begins a strange series of adventures by which Jake becomes reacquainted with Anna, her movie star sister Sadie, and his old mild-mannered friend Hugo whose philosophical nature he once adored and whom he believes he has regretfully, irrevocably wronged.
Jake is unreliable and irresponsible, perhaps, but completely lovable. He impulsively follows his renewed feelings for Anna all over London and Paris and, in one of the funniest parts of the book, enlists the help of his friend Finn to kidnap a rich bookie’s acting dog to exchange for a stolen typescript at the center of a malicious plot between Sadie and the bookie-turned film investor.
The changing relationships in this novel remind me of the Robertson Davies novels that comprise the Deptford Trilogy, which is high praise coming from me. It’s the mysterious, undefinable and lasting pull that develops between friends, lovers, even enemies, that gives each relationship meaning, and each person meaning in relation to others. It’s as though Jake is searching, throughout the novel, to figure out where he belongs in terms of all these people who have meant something to him…but massive miscommunications and crossed love-lines make the answers to his question that much more elusive. I love how deeply Jake feels friendship; his romanticism is non-threatening and alluring.
This book was fun, lively, and light. I enjoyed it fully, and will be reading Murdoch again soon!