Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Sea, the Sea (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – March 1, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Dame Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) was one of the most acclaimed British writers of the twentieth century. Very prolific, she wrote twenty-six novels, four books of philosophy, five plays, a volume of poetry, a libretto, and numerous essays before developing Alzheimer's disease in the mid-1990s. Her novels have won many prizes: the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince, the Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, and the Booker Prize for The Sea, The Sea. She herself was also the recipient of many esteemed awards: Dame of the Order of the British Empire, the Royal Society of Literature's Companion of Literature award, and the National Arts Club's (New York) Medal of Honor for Literature. In 2008, she was named one of the Times' (London) 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
Mary Kinzie is the author of Ghost Ship and The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
As I began it, I thought—I don’t like Charles Arrowby, the “hero.” He has nothing to commend him.
He is manipulative, self-absorbed, completely egotistical. He interacts with people solely to amuse himself.
As the title suggests, he lives by the sea, which he frequently observes and describes. He has recently bought a modest cottage there. He essentially is retiring there, leaving London, his life in theater, and all his many lovers. It is his intention to write his memoirs.
By an odd coincidence, he encounters Hartley, his first love. He has “had” many women in his life, but Hartley was his ideal.
Spoiler alert. He hatches a plot to get her back, which he tries to effect by kidnapping her. While he holds her captive, a host of old friends descend upon him.
Interminable scenes follow, exhausting me as a reader.
At one point someone falls into the sea and dies. Let me just say I was deeply disappointed that it wasn’t Charles.
Only the last chapter “redeemed”Charles a little bit. Hence the two star rating: otherwise it would have been one star.
But, hey, I finished the damn book!
Should you read it? There were somethings I did enjoy, but they were all towards the beginning.
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.