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The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
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The Sea, the Sea (1978)

by Iris Murdoch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,879753,298 (3.92)1 / 387
The sea: turbulent and leaden, transparent and opaque, magician and mother... When Charles Arrowby, over sixty, a demi god of the theatre -- director, playwright and actor -- retires from his glittering London world in order to 'abjure magic and become a hermit', it is to the sea that he turns. He hopes at least to escape from 'the woman' -- but unexpectedly meets one whom he loved long ago. His buddhist cousin, James, also arrives. he is menaced by a monster from the deep. Charles finds his 'solitude' peopled by the drama of his own fantasies and obsessions. "From the Trade Paperback edition."… (more)
  1. 21
    The Bell by Iris Murdoch (Booksloth)
  2. 22
    Kim by Rudyard Kipling (thorold)
    thorold: Two books that demonstrate that it's possible to use a Buddhist holy man to power the plot of a complex modern novel without getting all mystical and Hermann Hesse.
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English (69)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (75)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Very funny but overlong book. ( )
  ThomasPluck | Apr 27, 2020 |
Murdoch was famously prolific, which is one of the best adjectives I can think of for writers; I don't tend to agree with the "one masterpiece a decade" philosophy that dominated the late 20th century idea of the "writer". I constantly yearn for the era when books, stories, were released as a shared conceit of literature and entertainment, when audiences could attend concerts and recitals and just enjoy the fare, rather than reviewing every tiny scrap of minutiae as we do today. When performers and artists could be just that: people who worked for a living, and whose every output didn't have to be the definitive statement.

Nevertheless, the bathetic conclusion to this review is that I didn't much like The Sea, The Sea at all. The title: A . The miraculous transformation of an early vision into a closing vision: Utterly inspired. The rest of it? Not so much. I found the dialogue mundane and nonspecific, the coincidences endless (whether or not this is related to the Eastern philosophies that knot the threads of the novel together), and the narrator's madness both viscerally unpleasant and entirely unbelievable. Besides which, not that any of us need be a model for our entire social group, but Murdoch's female characters really are a wilting, cardboard collection, aren't they? The ex-girlfriend whose only motive in life is to destroy the happiness of the man she can't have, the ex-girlfriend who apparently doesn't mind which of her men she ends up with as long as they are both okay with it, and the ex-girlfriend who willingly allows herself to be kidnapped and who has that annoying habit, only found in fiction, of going through entire conversations without stating the obvious facts that would render the entire plot moot.

J'adore Murdoch, who sits comfortably in that mid-20th century British high-literary semi-outsider fiction I live for, so I'll come back to this novel one day with fresh eyes. In the meantime, I shall seek my Murdoch succour elsewhere. The best part about believing in the art of being prolific is that there's always a change of pace lurking just around the corner; one work does not equal the artist. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
One thing not often mentioned about this classic novel is the introduction by John Burnside which I found to be very interesting in its own right. ( )
  keithostertag | Apr 15, 2020 |
Murdoch could have named her book "The Director Retires" or "The Loves of Charles Arrowby". But she didn't. She called it "The Sea, the Sea." And, indeed, the sea feels like a character. It is always there, by Charles' little house, and it is always described in his journal so explicitly that it feels you can see it. Maybe it's because the location is somewhat remote and so nature becauses a companion. (Maybe those of us who dwell in cities should take the same notice of our own surroundings instead of passing them by quickly in a car!). At any rate, the sea is simply the atmosphere of the novel and it envelopes you in its power.

That isn't to say there isn't a story. There certainly is, and it, too, draws you into its power. As Charles unfolds this strange interlude of his life in a memoir that records his pursuit of his first love, the reader will wonder who is mad here - the characters of whom he writes or the writer himself. ( )
  steller0707 | Aug 25, 2019 |
I can't usually stomach books with no likable characters in them. I think it's a testament to Iris Murdoch's skill as a writer that this one kept reeling me in.

I'm not sure quite how to summarise a book like this. The plot is fairly simple--and could be covered by a book a tenth as long--but Murdoch uses it more to develop the protagonist's character and frame her own meditations about eternal subjects like aging, how men treat women, and privilege. In the hands of a lesser writer this would make for a clumsy and tedious book, but The Sea, The Sea is a wonderful, satisfying read. ( )
  eldang | Aug 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (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 editionscalculated
Burnside, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Rosemary Cramp
First words
The sea which lies before me as I write glows rather than sparkles in the bland May sunshine.
Quotations
The chagrin, the ferocious ambition which James I am sure quite
unconsciously, prompted in me was something which came about gradually and
raged intermittently.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
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Legacy Library: Iris Murdoch

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