James's Reviews > The Sea, the Sea

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
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Jan 14, 09

bookshelves: booker-prize, lincoln-park-group
Read in May, 2001

"The novel concerns a retired theater director who moves to the seashore in order to contemplate his life. He recalls how an adolescent love which he greatly idealized prohibited him from committing himself completely to any of the important women in his life. Coincidentally, he meets the woman again and tries to resume his love affair but she won't have him..." Some evocative prose from Iris Murdoch. As she explores the potent mixture of power, illusion, and self-delusion in retired actor, playwright, and theater director Charles Arrowby (based in part on Elias Canetti) , Murdoch narrates a series of startling events. Old love affairs revive and die again, friendships sour into attempted murder, hallucinations (or are they?) portend ominous happenings, and the drowning embrace of the sea waits restlessly in the background. An intricate portrait is drawn of a man bewitched and bewildered by his own powers of self-promotion and manipulation. Intermixed are fascinating characters including Mary Hartley Smith Fitch , Lizzie Scherer , Rosina Vamburgh , and Gilbert Opian. Murdoch is at her best with these characters and the cottage by the sea.
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Robert Grabell what is striking about the lost-love is that she and her husband have continued to have a 'relationship' with the jilted thespian who they excluded, by reading about him and incorporating him into the mythology of their abusive relationship, adopting a son who so resembles him that the husband is convinced his wife has schemed to locate the illegitimate offspring of a carnal relationship that never occurred but which becomes central to their disturbing relationship


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