The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch – Book Review

1978 Iris Murdoch The Sea The Sea


I’d only heard of Iris Murdoch from knowing of the film Iris, starring Dame Judi Dench. A film I haven’t actually watched. I knew she was a very famous English author, and that she had Alheimer’s before she died. I’d never even thought to read her work.

The Sea, The Sea tells the story of Charles Arrowby, an actor, playwright and director who has received some acclaim and fame in the UK for his work. He has reached a certain age and retired, moving to a house that he has bought in a seaside town. The book is told in the form of his attempted memoir, intermingled with his daily routine and gradually, the dramatic turns that his life takes. His attempt at a peaceful and idyllic life is disturbed when he realises that one of the plain women he has spotted around the town is, in fact, his first love; the love he has always regretted losing. He becomes obsessed and takes action.

It is impossible not to appreciate the beauty of Iris Murdoch’s writing. In Arrowby, she has created a pompous and self-absorbed creature whose writing parodies himself, yet he doesn’t notice. The descriptions are gorgeous and the story, no matter how absurd it becomes, is totally capturing.

The Sea, The Sea won the 1978 Booker Award.

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