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The Sea, the Sea

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  9,528 ratings  ·  574 reviews
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 evolve ...more
Paperback, 495 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published 1978)
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Life of Pi by Yann MartelThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroThe Blind Assassin by Margaret AtwoodMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Booker Prize Winners
21st out of 49 books — 1,465 voters
The Sea, the Sea by Iris MurdochThe Bell by Iris MurdochThe Black Prince by Iris MurdochA Severed Head by Iris MurdochUnder the Net by Iris Murdoch
Best of Iris Murdoch
1st out of 31 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
”Even a middling novelist can tell quite a lot of truth. His humble medium is on the side of truth. Whereas the theatre, even at its most ‘realistic’, is connected with the level at which, and the methods by which, we tell our everyday lies. This is the sense in which ‘ordinary’ theatre resembles life, and dramatists are disgraceful liars unless they are very good. On the other hand, in a purely formal sense the theatre is the nearest to poetry of all the arts. I used to think that if I could ha ...more

5 Jungian Stars.

Over the weekend I was sitting with a friend, having a tea and we were reading. She said, "How is the Murdoch book?" I looked up and without pausing or thinking and said "Simply wondrous". She tilted her head in her adorable way and said "Whatsitabout?"

I took a moment, sighed and exclaimed, "Everything"

This book is a psycho-spiritual masterpiece of the highest caliber. I decided to sit down and come up with a laundry list of what it is about:

-the stars and earth
-isolation, connec
I struggled with this for a while, mainly because I was so irritated by Charles Arrowby, the main character and unreliable narrator. Arrowby is a retired actor, director and playwright who has moved to a remote cottage by the sea and is tentatively writing his memoirs. Whole successions of characters, many of them former lovers, arrive and depart and Charles encounters his first love Hartley who has also retired to the area with her husband.
Like many of Murdoch’s characters Arrowby is not very

Luna Punch By Alexander Jansson

تشارلز آروبي ممثل انكليزي مسرحي مشهور، قرر أن يتقاعد حين بلغ الستين من عمره في بيت عتيق و ناء على شط البحر، و طفق يكتب مذكراته... و لكن مشروعه في الانعزال تهشم حين التقى في تلك القرية بحبه القديم هارتلي التي هربت منه قبل أربعين عاما، ليستيقظ الشغف القديم... شغف تحول مع تراكمات السنين و توهمات الذاكرة لهوس أناني انبجس دفعة واحدة... مما أفزع هارتلي التي كانت تعيسة في زواجها حتى تأقلمت مع تعاستها و أصيبت بحالة من الهستيريا حين فرض عليها نفسه و صار يلاحقها... فلو أن شخ
The Sea the Sea by Iris Murdoch, is her 20th novel, which won the Booker prize in 1978. The author famously was an academic; a professor of Philosophy at Oxford University, who also wrote novels with a philosophical focus.

The novel is in the form of a journal. The viewpoint character throughout is a famous actor and director, Charles Arrowby. The impression we gain immediately is that he is a solitary, rather arrogant and egotistical individual. In the novel he has decided to retire to "Shruff E
I found this both repelling and compulsive, and the more repulsed I became the less capable I seemed of putting it down. I was hooked just several pages in, enamored with the elegant, elegiac tone of Charles Arrowby's attempts at composing a memoir/diary after exiling himself to a remote seaside home to live in monastic isolation. Via Arrowby, Murdoch's prose takes on a sea-like quality, the ebb-and-flow of memories and musings churning together present and past to the point where the edges of r ...more
Of course Iris wants to leave too.



For technical reasons I am required to add:

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Truth be told, I was scared of the book. Scared of its length, scared I might not like it enough to finish it (I'm very frustrated when I can't finish books - I always feel it's my fault).

Thank goodness Murdoch really knows how to write, I actually loved reading "The Bell" a couple of years ago and I promised myself I'd keep on reading Murdoch. But I never knew which one to continue with, and, yes, I was scared of their length :). And I chose this one because it was mentioned in a really nice in
Here's the first thing I love about The Sea, The Sea: its title. Isn't it wonderful? Imagine how boring it would have looked on a shelf if it had just been called "The Sea." But with that profoundly simple decision to repeat itself, it suddenly drips horror and madness and obsession. It's just brilliant. Almost makes me wish Emily Bronte had called her book "The Moor, The Moor."

And then Murdoch plays this terrific game with the opening sentence:
The sea which lies before me as I write glows rath
Dhanaraj Rajan
First Impression:

As my GR friend Jean said this is a weird book.

Why is it weird?

1. It is not a typical fiction. It tries to bridge both fiction and biography together. The novel begins with the intention of the main character - writing a memoir. It continues in this stream and suddenly the memoir takes the turn of fictional events and the reader gets enclosed in it. And the end, when the fiction part seems to be ending the memoir part comes up again and acts as the concluding part. The writer t
This is another one for the "What were they thinking?!?" shelf. Doubly so, in fact. It's not just another lapse by the Booker selection committee, whose judgements we already know to take with a large grain of salt. But to be let down so abominably by Dame Iris, someone we know is capable of writing interestingly, though sometimes at the expense of prolixity. Regrettably, in "The Sea, The Sea" we see her giving free rein to her multiple vices, with little of the compensatory acuity that is there ...more
K.D. Absolutely
I bought this book from Booksale Baguio in April 2009 for P30. After reading the book, I thought I would not mind paying P800.00 to read such a wonderful novel. This is included in the 501 Must Read Books and a finalist in Man Booker Prize.

I like the way Dame Iris Murdoch developed her characters and the way she introduced them in the plot. I read this in 5 working days (Monday to Friday) and did most of the readings a home (some in the gym while resting). In the morning, I put the book by my si
Murdochs characters are never likable people, they are usually, childish, selfish, obsessive and awful and you can hardly like them at all. But that is what makes her novels so fun. She always knows how to tangle you up in their troubles, lies, betrayals, and tragedies, their ambivalence and doubt,and she gets me at every turn. Charles Arrowby, the main character in this book is no better than any of them. He is en egotist who is impossible to sympathize with because his troubles seem so banal. ...more
Reading this book has been a most unique experience. Never have I read anything so infuriatingly tedious yet strangely compelling, so laughable and bizarre yet quite sad, really.

The story is narrated by Charles Arrowby, a famous London theater director who decides to retire from the limelight and move to a secluded house by the sea to live a more contemplative life. He sets out to write a journal and, for the next hundred pages or so, we are subjected to detailed descriptions of his surroundings
Leon Story
This is right up there with late Henry James, or perhaps Mann's "The Magic Mountain". Murdoch was a fine moral philosopher, and I would recommend to anyone that (s)he carefully read at least the first chapter of her "Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals" in order to better understand the philosophical underpinnings of this novel. The characters are unbearably self-absorbed, and beautifully drawn. The first-person voice of retired theatrical director Charles Arrowby will pursue you through your dream ...more
Lynda Rucker
I briefly considered putting this book down about halfway through because I was so fed up with the controlling, manipulative narrator and the utter passivity of his love object. I kept on because I was fascinated with how skillfully Murdoch managed not only the unreliable voice of the narrator, but the unreliability of all the characters. And it is, as one of my back cover blurbs promised, something of a page-turner. I'm glad I didn't give in to that brief urge because I liked this book a great ...more
Jul 25, 2015 Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Adults. Who love lunch and sea serpents.
Recommended to Alison by: Thanks for the rec, Torie, you knew this was right up my alley!
I moved my review to my blog:

Helen Foster
I have read a number of her books and I like this one the best even though the end section is implausible. The story is about a retired actor who moves from London to the Cornwall to live by the sea. Here, he becomes obsessed with his first girlfriend, who he sees, by chance in a local town.

Iris Murdoch's are like intellectual pscyhological soap operas and this has everything in it.
Here we have the memoirs of Charles Arrowby. The story he tells is brutal and haunting, not always on the surface but mostly in the characters' psyches. These poor people should not be dealing with each other, but somehow out of their interaction comes a sense not just of redemption but also of transcendence. Arrowby is a despicable man--here he is telling a story that puts him and his life in such a high position that readers do not get to read the guilt, the pain, and the emptiness of his life ...more
Oh, such mixed feelings about this book. Had you asked me my feelings about this novel half way through reading it, you would have seen my face scrunch up in frustration and I would say, “spare yourself from this novel which is strictly the ramblings of a completely self-absorbed and delusional idiot man for whom you will have no sympathy.” BUT…having finished it I can honestly say if you are able to get past the first two hundred pages (either for being a glutton for punishment or attempting to ...more
I almost don't know how to review this - because whilst I was reading it, and when I just finished it, I HATED it!

I thought it was too pompous, too long-winded, too philosophical, too self-indulgent.

Then I forgot about it for a while, and it popped into my mind about a month after I finished. I could now think of it from a 'bird's eye view' or something - I was literally imagining the creaky cold house on the hill by the shore, as though from above. I imagined Arrowby pottering around, pretendi
This is a good meditation on first love and the holiness we ascribe it after the fact. It muses on our responsibilities (romantic and otherwise) to ourselves and others, the notion of karma and comparison, what we learn from the various relationships we end up in and how well we behave ourselves. The writing is very good in parts, character development is amazing and the examination of the internal life is challenging. It is however at times farcical, hasty, uneven and the theme of mysticism is ...more
The narrator of The Sea, The Sea is Charles Arrowby, an unreliable narrator extraordinaire! He's an aging actor/director, who decides to retire to peaceful solitude by the sea, a fantasy beloved of so many. He buys a horrid little house called Shruff's End which is besieged by damp and void of amenities such as electricity and heating. Still, in summer the sea is lovely, and the weather is warm, and all seems well...

Murdoch's specialty is irony, and before long the reader becomes aware of Charle
Some time ago, in class, one of my two English teachers was talking. I don't usually pay attention to my English teachers - especially because they have nothing interesting to say. So, as per usual, my eyes were on a book, one of my ears was on my colleagues and the other one was spying on the teacher, to see if she calls for me to answer. I have no idea how she got there, but what I did get was that : ... "I read a horribly boring book, called "The Sea", or something like that, by someone, I do ...more
This is my first time reading Iris Murdoch, and I thoroughly enjoyed her! Her prose is lush, the characters are intense and flawed personalities who are far from perfect, but are perfect for who they are, and her humor is delightfully dark (velvety blue, nigh black)...hey, she writes my kind of book! It had the flow of a well-tuned engine that toured along at a steady clip that kept the pages turning. I dog-eared several places with awesome chunks of writing that I will want to revisit later. Th ...more
‘El mar, el mar’ es un novelón de Iris Murdoch. Más de 700 páginas. Y aún así, como se suele decir, se lee rápido, engancha de lo lindo. Es el primer libro que leo de esta escritora y me ha encantado el dominio que tiene del tempo narrativo, los sorprendentes giros argumentales que dan una fuerte sacudida a toda la trama, y la creación de una atmósfera que bascula entre el realismo típico de los novelones del siglo XIX y un aire de pesadilla onírico-fantástico muy particular y original.

El prota
The last fifty pages or so of this strange thick book almost propelled it into 4 star territory, but in the end I can only say with absolute certainty that "I liked it."

Aside maybe from Bellow's Herzog, I have never read a book where a character makes so many poor decisions in such a short amount of time, and yet, justifies them so eloquently. Of course, this is a great part of the fun that Murdoch is having with her narrator.

Charles Arrowby fancies himself an expert in all things including: t
I’d not read any Iris Murdoch until now, but am immensely glad I did. This 1979 Booker Prize winner takes the notion of the unreliable narrator and really runs with it, creating a central character who constructs himself huge towers of self delusion.

Charles Arrowby is a pretentious actor who moves to a cottage on the coast to enjoy his retirement, but finds that he cannot quite escape his old friends. Then he chances upon his first love.

Murdoch does capture the voice of this thespian gone to se
Lorenzo Berardi
Sigrid Undset, Marguerite Duras, Marguerite Yourcenar, Pearl S. Buck, Elsa Morante, Grazia Deledda, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison, Banana Yoshimoto, Elfriede Jelinek.
It's time to confess that I've never read anything by all of them.

(Saying nothing about poetry. May Emily Dickinson, Wislawa Szymborska and Anna Akhmatova forgive me!)

These omissions lead me to a question:
do I have a problem with well known, critical acclaimed female novelists?
Either, I am -strictly literary speaki
This is one of those stories that make it incredibly difficult to like because I did not like the protagonist at all. But I do love Murdoch's writing. So the rating is more 3.5 stars because I give the writing 4 stars but likeability 3.

I have to say this story is very similar in theme to her other book, The Unicorn, which I liked better for a myriad of reasons but mainly a) it was much shorter, b) I read it first, and c) the protagonist was a female and so her reasonings felt more true and less
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Dame Jean Iris Murdoch

Irish-born British writer, university lecturer and prolific and highly professional novelist, Iris Murdoch dealt with everyday ethical or moral issues, sometimes in the light of myths. As a writer, she was a perfectionist who did not allow editors to change her text. Murdoch produced 26 novels in 40 years, the last written while she was suffering from Alzheimer disease.

"She w
More about Iris Murdoch...
Under the Net The Bell A Severed Head The Black Prince The Unicorn

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“Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too.” 43 likes
“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.” 38 likes
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