Elegy for Iris

John Bayley

St. Martin's Press

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"I was living in a fairy story--the kind with sinister overtones and not always a happy ending--in which a young man loves a beautiful maiden who returns his love but is always disappearing into some unknown and mysterious world, about which she will reveal nothing."

So John Bayley describes his life with his wife, Iris Murdoch, one of the greatest contemporary writers in the English-speaking world, revered for her works of philosophy and beloved for her incandescent novels.

In Elegy for Iris, Bayley attempts to uncover the real Iris, whose mysterious world took on darker shades as she descended into Alzheimer's disease. Elegy for Iris is a luminous memoir about the beauty of youth and aging, and a celebration of a brilliant life and an undying love.

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Praise for Elegy for Iris

"This splendid book enlarges our imagination of the range and possibilities of love."
- Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review

"Bayley's restrained and elegant love song to his wife of forty-two years...is beautiful and heartbreaking. The whole lifetime shared in Elegy for Iris is full of spirit, generous and resilient."
- Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe

"Here is love heroic, love that doesn't hedge, love for which they may be no ready outs, love that feels as inevitable as breathing, and the result is stunning."
- Abraham Verghese, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"In Elegy for Iris I find my mother and father, my wife's parents, our friends, and us. I find shared lives, and hurts and forgivenesses, and joys that are greatest because nobody else knows them."
- Dan Rather

"Heartfelt and admirably unsentimental...a testament to a love that has endured and transcended the most terrifying ravages of illness and old age."
- Francine Prose, Elle

"Wise and full of grace."
- Shelby Hearon, The Chicago Tribune

"Dame Iris Murdoch's like will not be seen again. Elegy for Iris serves as a memorial to her person."
- Fay Weldon, Time

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

John Bayley

John Bayley is an eminent literary critic who taught at Oxford for more than thirty years. Iris Murdoch died in February of 1999.

John Bayley


Buy the Book

Available Formats and Book Details

Elegy for Iris
John Bayley

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
October 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466854246
ISBN10: 1466854243
288 pages

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
November 1999
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312253820
ISBN10: 0312253826
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages

From The Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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