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The Sea, The Sea Paperback – 1 Jul 1999
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"Dazzlingly entertaining and inventive" (The Times)
"One of the most ambitious tours de force in many years... There are pages one races through to see what happens. She is a virtuoso at description" (Daily Mail)
"She was a brilliantly clever woman" (Dame Judi Dench)
"There is no doubt in my mind that Iris Murdoch is one of the most important novelists now writing in English...The power of her imaginative vision, her intelligence and her awareness and revelation of human truth are quite remarkable" (The Times)
"A fabulous novel...funny and poignant and is arguably Murdoch's finest hour" (Gary Kemp Daily Express)
The Booker Prize-winning masterpiece from one of the twentieth century's most important and entertaining writers.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
So begins a tale of almost fantastical depth. Like the sea at its epicentre this is a novel which often seems calm and content, almost frail, but which at any given moment is want to swell and crash down with devastating consequences, only to recede carrying with it all ones expectations. It is this transience of nature, this ephemeral air which makes The Sea, The Sea such a joy. It is everything you ever wanted a novel to be, and yet nothing all at the same time.
The characterisation is first rate: from the magical realist eastern mysticism of Charles' cousin James through the joyful campness of his theatre friends to the dour and defeated strength of his childhood love there is a real sense of place, of permanence, of solidity. And with such a capricious main character as Charles Arrowby it is a pleasure to lose oneself in his mind and to live by the sea, with its daily transformations and impulsive unpredictability.
I want to say something dramatically understated which could emphasise how delightfully real this book is, to encourage everyone out there to buy it and read it and enjoy it. It is not a dense or difficult book, and there are surprising twists around each corner. Perhaps I could compare it to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, once you open these pages you really will never want to leave.
Thankfully, neither the cover, nor the title let me down, and within the first few pages I was hooked on the quirky, ponderous descriptions of the ocean. The first section of the book is called "Prehistory" and will prove a stumbling block for many readers who don't delight in detail and description: the house, the coast, daily routines and every meal seem to be covered. Bar the sea-monster sighting - or is it an hallucination? - nothing "happens" in the first 97 pages, but our narrator, Charles Arrowby, tells us a great deal about himself, and thus the stage is set for the main act.
The second part (and bulk) of the novel is "History" and it must be said that the pace picks up considerably. Having left his successful theatrical life behind him, Charles has retired to a dilapidated house by the sea for complete solitude, but the living skeletons from his closet begin leaping out all over the place. The realms of probability are stretched to the limit as eccentric ex-showbiz type characters fall over themselves to appear in melodramatic circumstances, and no less fantastical is the appearance of Arrowby's long lost childhood sweetheart. The story recounts his increasingly desperate and far-fetched attempts to win her back, whilst juggling jealous ex-lovers, with a little murder and mayhem thrown in for good measure.
Eventually, in "Life Goes On", his own post-script, Arrowby brings us up to date with the stories of the colourful characters still left... and there's nothing ordinary here either.Read more ›
This complex novel is in turn an intelligent study of a man towards the end of his life, a nostaligic story of love, and a gripping tale of madness. Set against the alluring menace of the sea, it will charm and entrance you throughout.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
60-year old retired London theatre director Charles Arrowby has purchased a quirky house in a quirky 'seaside' setting somewhere "in the North" (which I interpreted as... Read morePublished 10 days ago by talmine
Liked this a lot! Murdoch manages to draw together a number of well realised characters whose lives revolve around those of the central character, Charles, a retired theatre... Read morePublished 1 month ago by H. Lumb
This book needs to be read twice to really get the best from the marvellous writing. Sad and comic, what a brilliant combination from a superb writer.Published 2 months ago by Sonja Prag-Faupel
I loved every word of this. Funny, gripping, philosophical and un-put-down-able!Published 7 months ago by Rupe
First Iris Murdoch I'd read - bought because I'd half listened to a R4 adaptation. Loved the extra detail in the full novel.Published 9 months ago by gj
Not often I hate a book but I couldn't stand this one. She is a good writer but I found the self obsessed ramblings of the main character totally tedious. Read morePublished 9 months ago by boxgirl