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The Sea, The Sea by [Murdoch, Iris]
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The Sea, The Sea New Ed , Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Length: 562 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Product Description


When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3249 KB
  • Print Length: 562 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (29 December 2008)
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS78Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #72,498 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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This story of the obsessive love of an egocentric and delusional retired theatre actor and director is compelling reading. It describes his chance meeting with the woman he loved in a small village where he has a cottage overlooking the sea and the repercussions for him and several of his friends. Iris Murdoch's depiction of the sea and its changing moods and colours is wondrous. You are not meant to like some of the characters, but you will never forget them. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 108 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will you like this book? 27 November 2015
By LookoutSF - Published on
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Even though I gave this five stars, that does not mean that everyone will like this book.

You are more likely to enjoy this book if you can enjoy a book with long, wandering descriptions, stream of consciousness such as Ulysses, or a meandering through someone else's life,. . I think that older people will understand the book better than younger people.

If you need a plot, excitement, or need to understand what is going on at all times, this is not the book for you.

I had to interrupt my reading of this book several times. I read it on Kindle and highlighted, not the great passages, but items that seemed significant in terms of understanding the characters and what was going on. In fact, after reading about 100 pages, I went back and skimmed/highlighted. This was helpful, especially since my reading was interrupted. I read the last 10% after a break of almost 5 months and was able to pick right up on the story. It seems that this would be a good way to read the book: read a bit and put it aside, then go back and read a bit more, or flip through the earlier parts and re read. If you are the type of person who thinks about life, and meaning, then you will enjoy this. I don't think I would have enjoyed this when I was younger, although, who knows? I have gone back and read many books that I read in my 20s and they seem to be different books. Maybe this book would be the same: one book for a young person and another for an older person. If a young person can get through it, it might be very educational and even helpful- not as a moral guide, but to put perspective on one's own life as it is lived.

I'm going to make a stab at saying what this book is about. There are several summaries of the "plot". The interesting thing is that many of them vary except in the basic outlines. That is because one's reaction to this book is going to vary according to the level at which one reads it. I have only a superficial acquaintance with philosophy or mythology and several other areas of knowledge. I sense that there are many levels of understanding this book and no one will have access to all of them. What I do have is a broad experience of life, so that is what I was able to understand in this book.

What I think is going on here is that Charles is talking about parts of his life, with an emphasis on his obsession with Hartley, a woman whom he loved as a young man, and whom he may still love. That is the superficial story. Meanwhile, other people come and go in his life. Many of them are also obsessed, often with him. Sometimes they are obsessed with other aspects of life: the theater, Buddhism, patriotism. Each time they come into his life, he thinks differently about them and often they are thinking differently about him. Unlike many novels, in this book, many of the "minor" characters have a character arc. The the arc is not like one that is satisfying in a Hollywood movie, it is an arc that is more closely aligned with the arc of one's life. It can be satisfying, or surprising, or stupid.

As different things happen in his life, he reflects upon his relationship with Hartley differently,which serves to inform us,not so much about Hartley, as about the lead character and his own development. In the same way, the sea is not an objective inanimate object, but Charles' relationship with the sea reflects his mood and his thoughts. Charles also has many relationships with others. They start out at one point and continue to grow and develop in their own, separate lives. As they develop, they relate to him differently and he also changes his opinion about them, sometimes based on a re-thinking of past events, and sometimes in reaction to changes in that person. In the end, perhaps there is an answer, or perhaps it is random and doesn't make a neat story-like life.

Nabokov once said something along the lines of that one needs to read a novel at least twice to truly understand it. This is one of the books that will bear re-reading and will probably give gifts on a second, third, or even fifth reading. It is great literature, and a great experience, but not for everyone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iris Murdoch was my favourite author of the '70s 24 October 2016
By fran - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris Murdoch was my favourite author of the '70s. I decided to reread some of her works and have started with "The Sea The Sea".
Often when one rereads a book they read earlier in their lives, one is disappointed. However, that was not the case here.
Her erudition is next to none, but her writing flows easily. Her characters seem larger than life, but, on reflection, they are really the same people we have around us, and of course even ourselves. Through these characters, she examines the human condition with amazing plots and twists and turns. Still one of my very favourite authors. I always feel sorry when one of her books end, and live with it for days after.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Writing Carries the Story 4 October 2015
By A. Diaz - Published on
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Aside from the story, which takes a while to pick up steam, I became attached to the book for the quality of the writing. It is nearly 500 pages, and Iris Murdoch describes the sea throughout, never repeating the descriptions. I actually lost the book when I was about 100 pages into the story, and I bought another copy rather than starting up one of the numerous novels waiting to be read on my shelf. Murdoch so overshadows most writers that it took me a while before I could begin another novel. I just savored the language and her way or forming sentences and imagery for a couple of weeks. I think really good writing deserves that, the way really finely prepared food or wine deserves to be savored.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Characterization 9 August 2016
By Joan Ifland - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Iris Murdoch reveals a characterization which is so powerful and complex that it is indistinguishable from the plot of the book. Or, it could be argued that the characterization is so compelling that it overshadows the plot. Months after reading the book, the creative anguish and foolishness of the main character remains, while the details of the plot fade. The main characters' delusional attempts to make a romantic relationship flourish from nothing is almost frightening. The motives and thinking are so clearly portrayed that it is easy to internalize his plight and be moved to compassion while also wanting to keep a good distance. A beautiful read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He did not put down his mask 15 August 2012
By Italo Perazzoli - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The sea, the sea is a tale of a self satisfied retired man.

Charles Arrowby is a successful playwright and director, during his working life he lived in London.

For many reason he decides to write his memoir in a remote location washed by the sea he will be haunted by the philosophical meaning of masks wore during his plays.

During his voyage he will discover his true personality made of egotism, selfishness and the meaning of love which is interpreted by Mary Hartley Fitch and Lizzie.

"But now the main events of my life are over and there is to be nothing but `recollection in tranquility'. To repent of a life of egoism? Not exactly, yet something of the sort. Of course I never said this to the ladies and gentlemen of the theater. They would never have stopped laughing"

(The sea, the sea, Penguin 20th Century Classics, Iris Murdoch, page 1)

The main argument of this novel is the synergy between our daily theatrical mask and our consciousness perfectly interpreted by Charles.

In my opinion Charles is conscious that his theatrical life has been a play, he feels unsatisfied because he did not understand the human behavior and its actions, in other words his philosophical questions about the meaning of love and jealousy are unresolved, this imply that he has failed his personal `Recollection in tranquility.'

"Hartley made a permanent metaphysical crisis of my life by refusing me for moral reasons. Did this lead me to make immorality my mask?"

(The sea, the sea, Penguin 20th Century Classics, Iris Murdoch, Kindle's location 1805)

It is clear that the theater is a metaphor of our life, here Charles is conscious that he was not able to distinguish his professional life from his private life, in other words he recognize that he is possessed by the theater and his actions and arguments has been written by the audience's taste.

This means that the sea will be a sort of inner redemption where he will know himself.

"Titus's body was conveyed to a hospital in a town many miles away, and was there received into the merciful anonymity of cremation"

(The sea, the sea, Penguin 20th Century Classics, Iris Murdoch, Kindle's location 7162)

Personally behind this phrase there is a profound reasoning on the existence of God or better the essence of our souls against the `anonymity of cremation' as a metaphor of atheism.

In my opinion the maturation of Charles starts after the death of his son Titus, recognizing that he has not be a good father conscious and repented of his late maturation.