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The Sea, The Sea [Hardcover]

Iris Murdoch
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 24 1978
First published in 1978, this is the story of Charles Arrowby who, retiring from his glittering London world in order to abjure magic and become a hermit turns to the sea: turbulent and leaden, transparent and opaque, magician and mother. But he finds his solitude is peopled by the drama of his own fantasies and obsessions,

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"Dazzlingly entertaining and inventive" The Times

About the Author

Iris Murdoch was a writer and philosopher. She was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to school in Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. She later became a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours List. She died in February 1999. Her husband John Bayley has written a bestselling memoir of his life with her called Iris and a major film based on this was released in 2001. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I see, I see Feb. 24 2002
Having recently seen the film Iris, and being disappointed inasmuch as it focused mostly on her personal life as a young woman and on her Alzheimer's as an older woman without featuring information about her many novels, I decided that I'd been remiss in never having read her works. I then proceeded to read The Sea, The Sea. This book is deep as the sea, inasmuch as it is about the mental processes of a not-so-good playwright who manages to become famous. The novel turns out to be quite interesting; in fact, fascinating; though at one point, somewhere around page 100, I felt that I didn't give a whit about it all. That was temporary. I returned to the book, read the remaining 4/5ths, and found it rewarding. It starts out on an intimate basis, as if you are reading a letter from a friend, and I utterly loved that ploy. Then, it changes; suddenly, all kinds of twists and turns occur, and though the reader has at first seen Charles, the protagonist, as a humorous man who withdraws from society to a home by the sea (I chuckle, for this house on a cliff in rugged terrain is definitely not the haven which a home should be), circumstances plunge him into temporary madness. The word "sea" conjures so many images of all that the sea can be: wild, calm, loving, cruel. Charles gets to see every aspect of the sea's personality, and we get to see every aspect of his. At one point in the book, Charles' madness is hard to take, as we are drawn in to experience it. In other words, since Charles has chosen a craggy environment in his quest for peace, peace is hard to come by. Charles undergoes an epiphany -- in fact, more than one. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Sea, The Sea has become one of my top five favorite books and Iris Murdoch one of my favorite authors.
In The Sea, The Sea, we meet arrogant, snobbish Charles Arrowby, a retired London theatre director. Charles has recently bought a house by the sea where he hopes to finish his pretentious autobiography. Many things happen, however, to disrupt this enterprise.
First, Charles discovers that one of the small town's inhabitants is his very first love, a love who disappeared from his life in his teens. Believing her to symbolize his lost youth and innocence, Charles becomes obsessed with her almost to the point of madness.
Iris Murdoch's books are all excellent studies of relationships and The Sea, The Sea is certainly one of her best. In it, the character of Charles lies at the center of a vast network of complex relationships and interpersonal interactions. Much of the novel is an exploration of how we, ourselves, influence what others eventually come to see about people and how they relate to them.
Although relationships take center stage in this novel, there is much symbolism and even a little of the supernatural. The sea is so ever-present in this book that it almost seems to be a character in and of itself. Charles reacts to the sea in many ways, some benign, some not so benign. The sea, itself, is portrayed as something that is untimately not able to be understood or controlled, much as is life.
Although this book is passionately moral, it is definitely not a treatise on how to behave in a moral fashion. In fact, many of Murdoch's characters could be said to be anything but "moral.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasant, and not the place to start with Murdoch April 26 2002
By A Customer
So many people who want to start reading Iris Murdoch start here, because it's her only novel to win a Booker Prize. This is always a mistake: this is one of her most difficult novels, as even its fans would agree. It is also, to my mind, one of her few unpleasant novels written before 1980: the hero is a very unpleasant and arrogant retired theatre director who has moved to the coast, where he is visited by a group of unpleasant friends from London (who seem to pop in unannounced at all hours). He also comes across the love of his life, whom he is convinced is stuck in an unhappy marriage. The plot goes and goes, but it's hard to care for any of these characters--or even for the plot itself, in that the very rules and stakes of the narrative change illegitimately as it progresses. I've always been surprised by the reputation this novel has garnered: its one of the rare better-known Murdoch novels that not only disappoints but leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth (I would highly recommend instead reading A SEVERED HEAD or THE BELL, which I think are much more successful works).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fascination July 9 2001
A tangled tale acting like an undertow, irresistably drawing people on shore and readers to participate. Like the rocks on the shore, little changes, despite the seemingly overwhelming power of the sea.
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