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The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
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The Sea, the Sea (original 1978; edition 2007)

by Iris Murdoch

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2,258472,841 (3.93)1 / 277
Member:dylanwolf
Title:The Sea, the Sea
Authors:Iris Murdoch
Info:Vintage Classics (2007), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 560 pages
Collections:KEN - NAI
Rating:
Tags:England, read

Work details

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

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    The Bell by Iris Murdoch (Booksloth)
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English (43)  Dutch (2)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Now this was good, an excellent novel which, if it wasn’t quite as long as it is, could be read several times in order to savour every last bit of meaning from its carefully constructed prose. What is it about? Well, lots of things, but mostly what it’s like to be human and subject to the whims and fancies of the heart. There’s a strong element of spirituality throughout the novel too but the increases towards the end. And by the time I’d got there, I was really enjoying the writing.

Charles Arrowby has retired from a life in the theatre. He settles himself down in a somewhat malevolent house by the sea in a remote location. He thinks he’s left his past and his life in London behind but, unbeknown to him, he’s come closer to it than he at first realises. The village nearby holds someone who he thought he’d never see again and, when they meet, his entire world, and the rest of the novel, is turned upside down.

His London life almost literally moves in with him as various friends and ex-lovers turn up to help him through it all. Their roles are almost as fascinating as that of Charles himself who you can never quite bring yourself to sympathise with. He is obsessive and desperate and, if we’re honest, we’ll all recognise these qualities in ourselves to a greater or lesser extent. Maybe its the fact that you see yourself so accurately portrayed that you find yourself slipping so easily from sympathy to scorn as his behaviour becomes more and more extreme.

Murdoch does a great job in arraying around Charles a full range of humanity who all have their own take on how he should live the rest of his life and face the dilemma that is consuming him. Again, you are able to reflect on your own reactions to them, their advice and his response to it

And all the while the sea sits offshore brooding and the house plays its tricks on him. The esoteric takes on a much stronger role as the novel nears its completion especially with the increasingly important role of his cousin James who, in himself, is one very enigmatic character who is drawn, but only very softly, in 4B pencil.

Coming after the atrocious Citadel and before the fairly tame The Marriage Plot which I’m now reading, the sublime writing of Murdoch stands out even more than it would have done. Here we have a great novelist writing a very complex novel which, on the surface, can be taken as a simple story. At the same time, you know that there are a warren of other alleys you could explore in the writing. It’s this multi-layered aspect which makes you realise you are in the presence of someone who, unlike Kate Mosse, deserves the title of author and a prize like the Booker. ( )
  arukiyomi | Feb 27, 2015 |
Wow. This one had been sitting on my "to read" shelf for a long time. The polarised reviews from other readers prompted me to continuously put off picking it up as I had had a bit of a dud run book-wise and didn't feel up to facing another reading disappointment.

Perhaps I was in just the right, magic place for this meandering diary-style tale. I loved it from the start and was even happy to accept the inconclusive conclusion: it seemed appropriate.

Yes, Charles is not a pleasant person. Some have said he is unlikeable but that was not my impression, indeed one thing that astounded and impressed me was how Iris Murdoch put me in the head of this seriously flawed personality and yet I found him strangely likeable!

Some also were discomforted by the depiction of female characters, disliking what they saw as their weakness or madness (or both). I didn't see it like that. We receive only Charles's perceptions of these women and I feel it is apparent throughout that his point of view is so selfishly flawed as to be almost entirely unreliable. Reading between his lines, I see women who aren't actually that helpless at all, indeed are often just good, normal people (characteristics Charles is intrinsically incapable of understanding, that he doesn't at base even believe exist since he is so convinced that everyone else feels and acts in the same egotistical manner as himself.) Some of the women (not all) are perhaps a little inexplicably in his sway, but I did get a sense of his cruel charisma so that made a fair amount of sense as well.

Was this her best? I don't know, but I need to read more from Dame Iris Murdoch to find out! ( )
  Vivl | Jul 10, 2014 |
Well-written, and at times rollickingly funny, yet ultimately depressing and just…empty. ( )
  lothiriel2003 | Jun 25, 2014 |
Charles Arrowby retires from his busy theatre life to a small cottage by the sea to enjoy solitude. Soon enough he's writing to friends and getting enormously muddled in his past relationships: with Lizzie who wants to marry him, with Mary Hartley who was his teenage sweetheart and best friend.

I didn't find Charles particularly likeable as a character, too selfish and not very perceptive about other people's thoughts and feelings, but there was something compelling about him getting ever deeper in the muddle he'd caused himself. ( )
  mari_reads | Feb 9, 2014 |
Like all Iris Murdoch's books I just don't know how to describe The Sea The Sea. The story goes nowhere and everywhere. She leaves us feeling as if we have just read something profound without being able to put our finger on what. Unlike the other Murdoch novels I've read this one is told first person and takes us into the mind of Charles Arrowby so well we feel as if we've sat down and talked to him. Perhaps that's where the genius of the novel lies. ( )
1 vote ecumenicalcouncil | Jan 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
The book that finally won Iris Murdoch a Booker is at least as ludicrous as it is brilliant...The surprise isn't so much that she failed to scoop the prize three times in a row, but that a jury managed to unite behind one of her books – especially one as variously sublime, ridiculous, difficult, facile, profound and specious as The Sea, the Sea....So there it is, a book that has left me thoroughly divided. It's as flawed as it is wonderful and it took a brave jury to give it the prize. Or, at least, a very forgiving one.
 

» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iris Murdochprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burnside, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Rosemary Cramp
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The sea which lies before me as I write glows rather than sparkles in the bland May sunshine.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Charles Arrowby, leading light of England's theatrical set, retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor, both professionally and personally, and amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors-some real, some spectral-that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014118616X, Paperback)

Charles Arrowby, leading light of England's theatrical set, retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor, both professionally and personally, and amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors-some real, some spectral-that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:35 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Charles Arrowby, leading light of England's theatrical set, retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor both professionally and personally, and to amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors - some real, some spectral - that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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