• The Sea, the Sea

  • Vintage Classics Murdoch Series
  • By: Iris Murdoch
  • Narrated by: Richard E. Grant
  • Length: 23 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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The Sea, the Sea  By  cover art

The Sea, the Sea

By: Iris Murdoch
Narrated by: Richard E. Grant
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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Vintage Classics Murdoch: Funny, subversive, fearless and fiercely intelligent, Iris Murdoch was one of the great writers of the 20th century. To celebrate her centenary, Vintage Classics presents special editions of her greatest and most timeless novels. 

I saw a monster rising from the waves.

Charles Arrowby has determined to spend the rest of his days in hermit-like contemplation. He buys a mysteriously damp house on the coast, far from the heady world of the theatre where he made his name, and there he swims in the sea, eats revolting meals and writes his memoirs. But then he meets his childhood sweetheart Hartley, and memories of her lovely, younger self crowd in - along with more recent lovers and friends - to disrupt his self-imposed exile. So instead of 'learning to be good', Charles proceeds to demonstrate how very bad he can be.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 1978.

©1978 Iris Murdoch (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Sea, the Sea

Average Customer Ratings
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Superb!

I purchased this audiobook because I realised I had had a hard copy on my shelf for years, and had never read it. I had not read any of Murdoch’s works but knew that this novel had won the Booker Prize in 1978, the year I left school. What a wonderful audiobook this is! Although the protagonist, Charles Arrowby, is a vain and egotistical misogynist, his character is superbly drawn. In some ways, although this story is set in the 1970s, the narrative feels more evocative of the 1950s. This may be because the protagonist, and most of the characters, are in their 60s (and the author herself was aged 59 when it was published). Their views, tastes, foibles and behaviours seem to come from a slightly earlier era, which I enjoyed. I found the story itself gripping, and Richard E. Grant’s narration/performance superb.

1 person found this helpful

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Good writing. Weak story

Iris is a good writer. The book reads nicely. The story starts well. Builds up even better. But it fizzles at end. The end doesn't follow the narrative ark. It consists of tacky wisodom. A bit disappointing.

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Two intellects of the highest order

The intellect of Murdoch finds its perfect exponent in Richard E. Grant. An endless proliferation of tulpas: Murdoch's, which are Charles', and all of which are brought to life with vigour and grace by Grant. What a novel! What an audiobook!

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Brilliant narration of a wonderful book!

The book was magical, and the narration did it every justice.I could never read it after listening to Richard E Grants narration!
Loved it!

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Amazing book

I didn’t expect it to be so interesting and vivid. It’s my first book of Iris Murdoch but I want to continue. Narrator did a great job, too.

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Demons at play?

Most literary novels do not qualify as page-turners but there are exceptions. The Sea, The Sea is one such.

In the form of a first person journal, it tells of the travails of a London theatre luminary, now jaded and tired of the world, who has retired to a ramshackle cottage by the sea. Having sought a life of tranquility and reflection, Charles discovers that fate has something very different in store.

Superbly performed by Richard E Grant, this is a book that is both hard to put down and soon plunged into again. Ultimately it asks us to reflect on the source of our obsessions and it does it without ever loosening its grip on our attention.

A worthy Booker Prize winner in the 1980s.

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  • AH
  • 04-28-20

Thank you Richard E. Grant

This is not a narration by Mr Grant, it is a wonderful and generous performance.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 05-17-20

Sherry and bitters anyone?

I've waited a while for an audio edition of The Sea, the sea, to become available. I think it might have been worth the wait to get one with Richard E. Grant. The cental figure, described regularly as: 'self satisfyed', Charles Arrowby is quite a difficult character for a narrator to get the tone right I imagine so it's good Grant, who always seems to me to be an under utilised talent, has got his character perfectly. He does superbly with all the various accents of the other characters in the book too. If a well told story of a (rightly or wrongly) successful, hedonistic stage director who is, for some reason, infatuated with a married woman in a rural seaside location is your thing then this is the very best.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Penelope New
  • 05-27-20

Worth the wait !

Didn't think one of my favourite Murdoch novels could be topped by reading, but this audio book surpasses all expectation....the philosopher's pupil next PLEASE

10 people found this helpful

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  • Deborah
  • 05-12-20

Eccentric and reflective

Brilliantly read by actor Richard E Grant. a good book to immerse yourself in if you like to hear the mumblings of theatrical persons, out-of-work actors and people who have lived their lives. Slightly potty towards the end and dwindling with pathos and loss, but still interesting and reflective.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-27-20

An elusive, ambiguous masterpiece

What a superb reader Richard E Grant is. His tone is perfectly suited to this odd, brilliant, vexatious book.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Georgina
  • 05-05-20

Perfect casting brings this classic to shimmering life

I listened to this in the space of two days. Richard E Grant is perfection. The entertaining cast of characters give relief to the chief protagonist’s deranged obsession and Murdoch’s skill stops it descending into farce. She has the ability, like Dickens, to interweave humour and pathos effortlessly. It will stay with me for a long time.

8 people found this helpful

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  • lisa sheldon
  • 05-02-20

Fabulous.

Richard E Grant’s narration of this is perfect. Beautifully paced and immersive. A delight to listen to.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Cristina Popescu
  • 05-24-20

remarkable!

this was an extraordinarily enriching experience! highly recommended! it was my 3d time reading it.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Gerard
  • 05-30-20

A masterpiece

This is a gem of an audiobook. Perfectly read by Richard Grant. Murdoch amazes and delights with effervescent flights of creative story making. A masterpiece to cherish for all time.

5 people found this helpful

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  • KMV
  • 06-17-20

Utterly brilliant narration

Richard E. Grant brought The Sea, The Sea to life in so many ways. I think this is one of the best narrations I have heard. Thank you very much.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 08-27-20

Sheer brilliance

A tour de force. Prepare yourself to be squeezed through the emotional wrangle.. A Wikipedia of relationships, dysfunctions, frailties, vulnerabilities, needs and desires.
Mr Grant's stunning, virtuosic performance of a character utterly suited to his narrative style brings this story off the page and into your home, car and dog walks. After decades of audiobook listening this is now my new favourite. A masterpiece of literature and a masterpiece of storytelling performance. If you become irritated when friends talk about their marriages, this is not the book for you. Iris Murdoch's laser insight and razor prose dissects human desire at the level of forensic autopsy. I was engulfed, riveted, nailed and rode the emotional runaway train of this story, handcuffed to my seat by Mr Grant's luscious narration/performance. I sat with my headphones still on listening to silence when it finished thinking of the dual life I had just led over the past week...my real life and my audiobook life at Shruff's End. Wow.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-18-22

Wonderfully emotive story about love & perception

Amazing book : emotions described intricately & in detail, following the twists that minds can take.. set in an interesting narrative of a famous (& fairly conceited) actor retiring to a small English village and the many bizarre occurrences there. The sea is ever present, it’s various moods a backdrop & echo to the unfolding drama. The various characters are well drawn, and the story & their conversations are sometimes hilarious.
Best of all, Richard E Grant IS Charles, the central character. His narration, and various accents, are brilliant, and help in bringing the book to life.
Recommended for anyone who enjoys good literature.
A must . I was sad to reach the end.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Elise Mac
  • 03-06-22

The ramblings of an old misogynist

Written by a woman so I suppose this book was meant to excite women’s equality in its time but unfortunately it feels dated. Some of the female characters are so pathetic, I wasn’t convinced. In fact I disliked most of the characters, but there were a few good surprises too. Undeniably a very well written and narrated story.

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  • Michael
  • 10-12-20

Beautiful

I didn't want this to end. Such a wonderful narration of a novel rich is timeless quotes. Listening to Richard E Grant's narration, I found myself thinking that this would have been the story Withnail would have told had he got his act together.

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  • Susan
  • 04-16-20

A favourite book

I have read this book several times over the years, I list it as one of my all time favourite books. It was a treat to hear Richard Grant read it so beautifully. I especially loved his brilliant accents and his interpretation of Gilbert.

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  • elizabeth b.
  • 04-10-20

Superb

This is the second time I’ve read this the first Tim 20 years ago as a real book. This time I loved it just as much. Richard E Grant is a fantastic narrator. So funny at times I laughed out loud. It’s a wonderful book at times frustrating but other times really poinent and quite make one think about life. It goes off onto tangents and can be really annoying but I loved it.