To re-read is not only to be swept up in thematic concerns. Once again, we are captivated by Murdoch’s genius as a novelist. If we have become used, some 60+ years later, to a restricted range of fashionable cultural concerns viewed through the narcissistic prism of semi-memoir, then re-absorption into Murdoch’s writing can be rich stuff indeed.
Murdoch concludes her essay ‘The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited’ (1959) with a very expressive metaphor: ‘a novel must be a house fit for free characters to live in; and to combine form with a respect for reality with all its odd contingent ways is the highest art of prose.’ Surely we see this in The Sandcastle? Moreover, she never again explored the subject of portrait painting or indeed school-teaching in such depth, though we see in her next great novel The Bell a further development of an enclosed society with its tensions between sacred and profane love.