Iris by John Bayley - review by A N Wilson

A N Wilson

True Story of How He Finally Captured Her

Iris

By

Duckworth 192pp £16.95 order from our bookshop
 

This love story begins with two gerontic delinquents driving along the northern bypass of Oxford and enjoying the ‘hoots and shouts from passing cars who have had to brake at speed’. At this point, the oldies judder off on to the grassy verge, leave the car, worm their way through a gap in the hedge and slither down to the River Windrush, where they strip off and bathe. No hint is given in these opening paragraphs of the woman’s state of mind. Instead, the bathe takes the narrator back in time to the first occasion when they had gone to that spot, forty years and more ago. Naked then (now they wear clothes – she an antiquated bathing dress in which he has had to dress her, he a vest), they had crawled out and dried themselves on Iris’s waist-slip.

I still have the waist-slip, I recliscovered it the other day, bunched up at the back of the drawer, stiff with powdery traces of dry mud .... Could someone, later my wife, have indeed worn such a garment?

After the initial bathe, the one in the 1950s, Iris had taken him to luncheon with a male admirer who evidently hoped she would

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