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.
Reviewed by Brandon Robshaw in Slightly Foxed Issue 66.
Nothing but the Best
The Sea, The Sea was Iris Murdoch’s nineteenth novel and the only one to win the Booker Prize (in 1978). It is, to my mind, her best novel, as well as being the most representative of her talents and distinctive world view. It is also hypnotically readable. Actually all her novels are hypnotically readable (with the sad exception of her last, fractured book, Jackson’s Dilemma), but most contain certain faults of excess: passages of over-description, stagey scenes, unrealistic over-intellectualized dialogue, plotting whose artifice is all too obvious. This does not make them less lovable or less intellectually stimulating. Still: you can see the joins. This is not the case with The Sea, The Sea. In that novel Murdoch achieved the perfection of her craft. It is her Great Expectations, her Mona Lisa, her Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 66, Summer 2020
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