Jackson’s Dilemma

Murdoch, Iris. Jackson’s Dilemma. New York: Viking, 1995.

I hate it when I read a review that influences my way of thinking, my way of reading a book. This happened innocently enough. I was looking for more information about Jackson’s Dilemma. Was it ever made into a movie? Adapted for the stage? A musical? As a result of my searching I discovered Jackson’s Dilemma was Murdock’s last book. Not only that, but she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s right around the time of publication. Inadvertently, I read two reviews that seemed to blame the disease for the demise of Murdoch’s craft. In other words, Jackson’s Dilemma bombed. Because of the reviews I found myself wondering about the words. I will admit, the beginning was slow and the characters, curious, but in the end I didn’t think it was all that bad.

It starts off on the eve of Edward and Marian’s wedding. Edward is enjoying dinner with friends when he discovers a note under the door: an “I can’t marry you” letter from Marian. There is no explanation but the following day there is much hoopla about making sure people are “barred” from the church and from attending a wedding that won’t happen. All of Edward’s friends are absurdly devastated by this turn of events, so much so that I started to really question their sanity. Meanwhile, both Edward and Marian disappear (separately, of course). Enter Jackson (Just Jackson, no last name). Even his arrival is peculiar.

In the end the plot becomes a garbled mess. Everyone is trying to be in love with someone else, exclaiming undying devotion left and right. Even Owen (male) and Tuan (also male) have some kind of odd, unexplained relationship going on. Despite all this, I did have two favorite lines: “The moon was not present, being elsewhere” (p 22). Who actually knows where the moon was, but I thought that was funny. The other line: “After all, as Randall said, it’s the sea that matters” (p 100). Too bad Randall would lose his life to the very thing that mattered.

BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the chapter “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss”. Leave it to me to read her last book (sorta) first.

2 thoughts on “Jackson’s Dilemma”

  1. i never read any of her books but i did see a movie about her…it was sad and confusing.

    i find it interesting that she was working on a book during the early stages of the disease. i wonder how you or someone else would have reviewed it not knowing that information.

  2. I honestly think I would have been harsher on the writing had I not known about the disease. The characters were truly confusing. It will be interesting to read Murdoch’s earlier works and compare them.

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