Another great messy house from Iris Murdoch

The dim light showed, immediately outside the door, the steep stairs which Cato now mounted to the room above where he once more checked the window which had been partially boarded up and more recently covered by a blanket hung from two nails. All being well he turned on the light, which here was slightly brighter. He ran down again to switch off the kitchen light, then came up more slowly. The little room was dingy and shabby but not totally comfortless. There was a chest of drawers with the drawers standing open and empty, a divan bed with a dirty flimsy green coverlet drawn up over disorderly bedclothes, and a small metal crucifix nailed to the wall above. The speckled linoleum was worn into holes, but there was a cheap newish brown rug. A washstand with a brightly tiled back and a grey marble top was strewn with Cato’s shaving tackle. On the floor was his suitcase, packed, unpacked, packed, now once more disgorging its contents conspicuous among which was a bottle of whisky. The dusty wainscot was decorated here and there by eccentric forms of flattened soup tins which a previous tenant had nailed over the mouse holes. There were two upright chairs and a number of overflowing ash trays. The room smelt of damp and tobacco and the lavatory next door. Cato switched on a one-bar electric fire which stood in the corner, the element emitted a shower of sparks, then settled to a dull glow. He sat down on the divan and lit a cigarette. He was trying to give up smoking again, though really now it scarcely mattered.

from Henry and Cato by Iris Murdoch. Here’s the original review from the New York Times in 1977

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