Iris and the Friends: A Year of Memories

 
9780001056374: Iris and the Friends: A Year of Memories

After more than three years of suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch died in January 1999. Early that month she was taken to a home for the terminally ill, and although she had to be removed by coercion, she quickly settled into the home, and remained radiant and calm for the last weeks of her life. The last year or so of Iris Murdoch's life provides the framework for "Iris and the Friends", but within this structure, John Bayley returns repeatedly to memories of his own earlier life, and of more than 40 years of marriage to Iris. Alzheimer's is a lonely predicament for the carer, and Bayley describes how he coped with the ordeal of watching his wife become terminally ill by forming a growing dependency on memory as a stand-by, consolation, and friend. In the final chapters, Bayley describes his wife's death which was an entirely serene one. He recalls how she slipped quietly out of consciousness and how he felt resigned and at peace with himself.

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Review:

Novelist and thinker Iris Murdoch died on 8 February 1999 after living for three years with Alzheimer's disease. Her husband, novelist and academic John Bayley, had previously written movingly of the impact of her illness in Iris: A Memoir.

Iris and the Friends tells of the final year of Murdoch's life, when she was visited more by her own imaginary "friends" than by the exigencies of real life. It brings the story through Bayley's increasingly precarious hold on present reality, to his own breakdown, Murdoch's final happy weeks in a home for the terminally ill and finally her quiet death. Although ostensibly a sequel, it is more an exploration of Bayley's new friends: the memories that were sparked off precisely as Murdoch lost her own--of his childhood, army years, first loves and, of course, their marriage.

But there are other "friends". At one point Bayley writes: "The old Eng. Lit. again. I taught it for nearly fifty years and feel detached from it now." Yet literature emerges here as the one remaining constant in his life. Scarcely two pages go by without a reference, almost involuntary, to Hardy, Coleridge, Austen, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Thurber, James, Lawrence, Woolf or Murdoch. Sometimes Iris appears to respond to the shared literary in-jokes, but more often the pair become "two animals pushing together, nudging and grooming each other, grunting together as they bask in a mutual doze."

It's an incredibly intimate glimpse into what should be a personal life, but as Bayley observes tellingly: "There is a surreal sense in which Alzheimer's has turned Iris herself into art. She is my Iris no longer, but a person in the public domain." --Alan Stewart

Review:

'This is the greatest love story of our age; incomparable' The Observer on Iris: A Memoir

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Bayley, John
Published by HarperCollins (2001)
ISBN 10: 0001056379 ISBN 13: 9780001056374
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Book Description HarperCollins, 2001. Audio Cassette. Book Condition: Good. Small/slight crack to the case. Good condition is defined as: a copy that has been read but remains in clean condition. All of the pages are intact and the cover is intact and the spine may show signs of wear. The book may have minor markings which are not specifically mentioned. Most items will be dispatched the same or the next working day. Bookseller Inventory # mon0004869533

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Bayley, John
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Book Description Harper Collins Audio, 1999. No Binding. Book Condition: As New. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. Read by Derek Jacobi: New . Cassettes x 2: New . 1999. Bookseller Inventory # 10055

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