The Sea The Sea

This month we read The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdock. This was her 19th novel, a 4th nomination for the Booker prize and her 1st Booker prize win. A brilliant satire on the pomposity of theater directors. Charles Arrowby rejects the magic of the stage and London in order to become a hermit. He thinks that by putting himself in this situation he can do nothing but learn to be good! But instead the complete opposite happens, a theatrical series of scorned lovers arrive, he finds his teenage love a woman named Hartley and becomes obsessed he even tries and fails to kidnap her, all the while remaining self obsessed and totally absorbed within his own drama.
Murdock does a fabulous job of portraying Arrowby and his self deceit.He actively insists that he is acting for the good of all concerned and at the same time bullies Hartley. He even uses Hartley's estranged adoptive son as bait and tries to make a good case of it after the fact that any rational person would believe. I think we all agreed that none of the characters were particularly likable but I think that really was her intention.

The hilarious descriptions of  Arrowby's meals once he begins cooking for him self and the comic squabbles between the actors who arrive at the house further highlight Murdock's delicious style and help the novel from draging, which it could with all of its epic descriptions. I loved how she used the Sea as an integral part of the story and I am sure there are mythical references within the passages that I have missed. I loved how it was a subject of mystery and monsters but also a redemption. The passage when Arrowby sees the Seals really feels like a changing point in his character.

But I think the thing that I love the most about this book is the wonderful evocative descriptions, her ability to feel the environment is stunning, the house creaks and groans under his occupation, his attempts at geometric patterns with the rocks are an affront to nature and the sea is sullied by his presence. All in all one of my favorite books ever. Yes its flawed, has characters that you don't like and has decriptions that go on for days but its also fbulous getting inside a self absorbed mans head and seeing and feeling how it is to be like that.

I hope you all enjoyed the book, Happy Reading

Ellie

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