Publisher: Chatto & Windus
Length: 560 pages
About: Actor's retirement to seaside disturbed
Style: 1st person
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.
Then I felt too that I might take this opportunity to tie up a few loose ends, only of course loose ends can never be properly tied, one is always producing new ones. Time, like the sea, unties
all knots. Judgements on people are never final, they emerge from summings up which at once suggest the need of a reconsideration. Human arrangements are nothing but loose ends and hazy reckoning,
whatever art may otherwise pretend in order to console us.
Peppered with literary allusions, yet enjoyable on its own terms, the strongest echo in The Sea, The Sea is of Prospero and The Tempest. Murdoch's subtly, blackly humorous digs
at human vanity and self-delusion periodically build into waves of hilarity, and Arrowby is a brilliant creation: a deeply textured, intriguing yet unreliable narrator, and one of the finest
character studies of the 20th century.
The Observer, Sophia Martelli, 4th August 2013
Not so good:
"Is it a genuine voice ? Not enough of one, I fear. Arrowby's dryness is really an unconvincing literary device. (...) The Sea, the Sea tends toward the doughy. There is the genuine
weight of obsession in Arrowby's narrative, but also the mere weight of iteration and ingenuity."
Martin Greenberg, The New York Times Book Review
About the author
Iris Murdoch was born in 1919 in Dublin and studied at Somerville College, Oxford. In 1948 she became a fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. She was awarded the C.B.E. in 1976 and in 1987 she was
made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. After a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, Iris Murdoch died in 1999.