The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch

the sea the seaREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Suzy

Charles Arrowby retires to the seaside to write his memoirs but is constantly under visitation by ex-lovers and friends

☁ “Published in 1978, The Sea, The Sea is the story of an eventful summer late in the life of Charles Arrowby, a famous man of the British theatre. He is the loveable, despicable anti-hero of this book.

“Having retired to a tower by the sea to write his memoirs, he is instead side tracked by a constant stream of visitors but more importantly by his own mental wanderings, imaginings and delusions. His focus becomes his childhood sweetheart Hartley and reclaiming her attentions while destroying her current relationship.

“This satirical look at the lengths to which this inconsistent, contradictory man will go to satisfy his egotistical cravings is Shakespearean in its drama. The freerangers discussed his many personality markers. We adored Arrowby! We despised him! We worried sick about him! We agonised over Hartley’s safety! Each page provoked new sentiments and proved to never be predictable.

“While a protagonist’s various encounters with individuals and circumstances usually propel them further along a journey of self-discovery, Charles’ confuse matters and set him backward.

Jealousy is perhaps the most involuntary of all strong emotions. It steals consciousness, it lies deeper than thought. It is always there, like a blackness in the eye, it discolours the world.

“Despite his kooky behaviour and self-delusional thoughts, or perhaps because of them, Arrowby made everything anomalous and outrageous, but somehow expected and acceptable too. His ability to manipulate everyone, including the reader, is thrilling, and we agreed reading this book was like being on an emotional rollercoaster.

“The other stand out personality in this character study was the turbulent sea. A moodiness was instantly created, with the tower on the cliffs and the frothing sea, that injected so much energy into the novel, aping the turmoil in Arrowby’s life.

Published 1978
Chatto & Windus
502 pages

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