Take that white thing away

Nicholas Spice

  • The Good Apprentice by Iris Murdoch
    Chatto, 522 pp, £9.95, September 1985, ISBN 0 7011 3000 8

‘A novel must be a house,’ wrote Iris Murdoch in 1960, ‘fit for free characters to live in.’ The Good Apprentice carries within it an apt image of itself as a house. Seegard stands in a coastal fen within sight of the sea. Architecturally it is singular and original, the creation of Jesse Baltram, an artist of disputed greatness who specialises in paintings with a heavily symbolic content. ‘A long high almost windowless building’ connects at one end to something that looks like an 18th-century house, and at the other to a tall, hexagonal, concrete tower. From the outside, Seegard is a ‘weird-looking object’ with features that can only be understood when one has explored it thoroughly from within. From a distance, it is hard to ‘read’:

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