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The Sea, The Sea Paperback – 1 Jul 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (1 July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009928409X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099284093
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

The Booker Prize-winning masterpiece from one of the twentieth century's most important and entertaining writers.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When Charles Arrowby retreats to the sea to live the life of a hermit in a dilapidated stone cottage he is in search of peace and tranquillity. He spends his days swimming in the swelling sea and practicing his own form of stripped down gourmet cooking. But when he encounters an old flame from his childhood the idyllic retirement he imagined is ambushed by obsession and he quickly finds his solitude interrupted by the London world he had tried to escape.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Never judge a book by its cover goes the old saying, and one I usually agree with, but exceptions can always be made, and The Sea, The Sea ended up on my reading pile thanks primarily to its cover - simplicity and curly waves.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The Sea The Sea is a portrait of a man who, Prospero like, retires to live in solitude by the sea and declares himself to have abjured the magic and illusion which have been woven into his career in the theatre. Becoming obsessed with a childhood sweetheart who by coincidence is living in the village, he sets in motion a chain of events which throw a spotlight onto his own psyche and its attitudes towards love, jealousy and the nature of the world.
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.
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Format: Paperback
...and you can't ask for more than that..Okay, so it takes a while to get into, but that said, I am a very impatient reader, frequently prone to discarding my latest purchases before I hit Chapter Two, yet the lyrical style and spooky hallucinations were enough to get me hooked. Agreed, the Rosinas and the Peregrines and the Gilberts are pretentious and theatrical, but that's the very point - they are ironically observed. Moreover, it takes a truly talented writer to create characters full of vanity and self absorption and still make them likeable - and Charles Arrowby (the novel's 'I') is the worst - yet most entertaining - egotist of them all. This was the first Iris Murdoch I have read, and I am as quick to dismiss overly literary novels as the next person, but I thought this had what many of the genre lack - a great, page-turning story. And above all, it's very, very funny. Give it a go!
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