Review: The sea, the sea – Iris Murdoch

This was the first time I’ve read a Murdoch novel and once again with the Booker winners I found it a strange one! 
It is the story of Charles Arrowby a well known actor who has decided to ‘retire’ from the theatre world and escape the madness of London to the outskirts of a remote town to live in a dilapidated house on a wild piece of coast line. The novel follows Arrowby’s attempts (or not) to ingratiate himself with the locals and distance himself from his friends and various ex lovers from the theatre world. Despite having spent a lifetime in show business he comes across as a loner, on the topic of dinner party conversation he says… 

“One’s best hope is to get into one of those ‘holes’ where one’s two neighbours are eagerly engaged elsewhere, so that one fan concentrate upon one’s plate”

Arrowby’s attempts to distance himself from friends and lovers take a u-turn and he finds himself in a frenzy of activity – his own manic attempts and also those of his friends to sort his life out. 

“What a queer gamble our existence is. We decide to do A instead of B and then the two roads diverge utterly and may lad in the end to heaven and to hell. Only later one sees how much and how awfully the fates differ.” 

But the quote below really summed up the book for me… 

“Of course this chattering diary is a façade, the literary equivalent of the everyday smiling face which hides the inward ravages of jealousy, remorse, fear and the consciousness of irretrievable moral failure” 

Arrowby seems deranged at points in his futile attempts to sort his life out – through action or inaction! And the final chapters of the books seem a raving soliloquy of thoughts and updates on various people, places and events. 

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