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The Sea, the Sea

Narrated by: Simon Vance, Kimberly Farr
Length: 21 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (82 ratings)
Regular price: $35.00
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Publisher's Summary

Charles Arrowby, leading light of England's theatrical set, retires from glittering London to an isolated home by the sea. He plans to write a memoir about his great love affair with Clement Makin, his mentor, both professionally and personally, and amuse himself with Lizzie, an actress he has strung along for many years. None of his plans work out, and his memoir evolves into a riveting chronicle of the strange events and unexpected visitors - some real, some spectral - that disrupt his world and shake his oversized ego to its very core.

©1978 Iris Murdoch (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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Pure pleasure

Any additional comments?

Simon Vance's reading is exquisite. I'd read this long ago, and listening to it was reminded again of how brilliant and often hilarious Murdoch's writing is. Vance captures the protagonist so perfectly I wish he'd narrate all of Murdoch.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Murdoch Amazes

This languidly beautiful first person narrative was completely engaging. The story was insightful and filled with reflections and thoughts on everyday life, looking both forward and looking backwards at retirement. Murdoch's skill at writing made simple daily tribulations interesting and even enticing. The characters were well developed and easily recognizable.

I loved Murdoch's use of the recurring theme of the ocean which created a solid framework or backbone for the book. The detailed description of the sea, its changing color, light and movement never became tiresome or too much. Instead it grounded the story, filled it with beauty, danger, monsters and destruction.

The narration was excellent. I wasn't sure about Vance at first but I was quickly won over by his reading style. The only negative I have about this edition of the book was that I really disliked the introduction. So if it bogs you down I'd suggest just skipping it. That part felt heavy handed. Don't let it turn you away from a wonderful book.

A classic, the 1978 Booker Prize winner and not to be missed. Excellent.

27 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Lesson: Actors in haste repent in leisure

I found myself amazed at how long it took (about 70 pages in print, apparently) for this story to actually begin, but once the characters begin to appear, they all pile into the small, isolated seaside house, and come and go as energetically as in a drawing room comedy with slamming doors and quick entrances upon others' quick exits.

The vast middle of the book details the exhaustive, ill-formed plan of the protagonist, followed by its execution, failure, and examination from every angle by every character involved, whether in conversation or as our man Charles imagines them to be thinking.

Yet: I found myself captured and held by the narrator much as I disliked him and found him wrong-headed…not unlike his "victim" seems to regard him.

My biggest gripe is the various better endings Murdoch wrote us through only to pick up the story again, even including a resumption of the ill-formed plan. Still, it's amazingly well-written (it won the Booker Prize, of course), and this bizarre interpersonal plot and extensive narrator reflections is hard to turn away from, even if only to see how badly the retired actor will act toward his friends.

Skip the turgid introduction (not by Murdoch) with this audiobook, or wait until you've finished the book to listen to it — if only to compare Mary Kinzie's academic aridity with Iris Murdoch's fluency. As a masters thesis it may have worked, but it gives sway every major plot development and character's role and, as Murdoch already overlays her first-person narrator's voice with a great deal of Jungian analysis, it seems a pointless discourse on the symbolism of symbolic symbols — which the novel itself also explores.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Entirely satisfactory

Richly written and fully engaging, there is no wonder The Sea, The Sea was awarded the Booker prize.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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All our failures are ultimately failures in love


"All our failures are ultimately failures in love." Iris Murdoch

Oh boy. This is deep, dudes. Far out and deeply deep, dudettes.

Rather than trying my unworthy hand at a thorough analysis of a psychologically complex 500 page novel, I shall lay track for a few grooves.

Dig it.
Near the beginning, I thought it might be a romance. No way, man. More like a real Mystery of Mental and Emotional Health and Well-being.

What is love? How is the idea or thought of it, especially young love, affected by the passage of time, what with our tendency to romanticize our youth?

The painful paradox of the ego (false pride), with its fang-ed sea serpent 'jealousy,' blinding us to reason, depriving us of patience and filling us with anger, all of which operates to ruin the very love that our innate sexuality tells us to cherish above all else.

The ways we lie to ourselves to enable the fantasy, even to the edge of sanity, that another loves us despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.


This is a thought provoker that goes down some murky places in the mind. Some readers may be turned off by what at times seems like a long-windedness of the first person narrator. Although it seemed to me, after finishing it, that 50 pages could have been trimmed, I haven't studied it enough to make conclude that those 50 were unneeded, and not the kick that pushed this novel into "classic" territory.

I could delve into all my thoughts triggered by the profundity of Iris Murdoch. It would be a ramble for it reminds me of how I languished in damaged love's lassitudes all the day I finished it. So, in that respect, I couldn't have read a more timely book.

This is a surefire 4.5 stars on the water.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Yes, it's an unfair rating

I never made it past Chapter 1, which was a very descriptive and very long hour of detailed analysis of the book. It was the equivalent of reading Cliff Notes and by the time the hour ended I could not decide if it were a case of not needing to listen to the next 20 hours or not wanting to. So I returned it.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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BEAUTIFUL

I would listen to anything read by Simon Vance, and this book, a masterpiece, deserves double praise. I hardly could stop listening and it was finished all too soon. Can't wait to forget it a little so I can listen again! Just listen!

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Again!

Lost in Iris Murdoch's story and language from the beginning. So much here that after I pull up the boat, make camp, and get a good night's sleep, I will do it again.

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Dark, tense, a gentle almost magical bludgeoning...


What a miraculous book. I have only just now finished it, and I already know that I will begin the re-listening of it tonight. I cannot wait. Without a doubt, it is on that shelf of one of the very best.

You are wondering what it is about? Heavy sigh. It is about everything, of course, as the greatest books are. But, Murdoch focuses with frightening clarity on marriages, relationships, lost love, delusions, the darkness we hide from, and the darkness we hide away.

It is a stormy, psychological journey into the hearts of many different characters whose paths are all intertwined. It begins with a famous actor/director (Charles Arrowby) retiring to a little run-down house by the sea where he swims, cooks wonderful meals, collects rocks, thinks, and writes about his life. Lord, it sounded like heaven to me. Of course, it was not.

There are tiny little shadows cast upon the reader from the start, and we slowly grow uneasy with the knowledge that so much is hooded, masked, and cloaked in falseness and danger, but we cannot quite put our finger on what it is. The zig-zagging trajectory of the tangled lives cannot be forecasted by the reader. Although we long for a predictable outcome to so many of the extraordinary events, this is not what we get. Murdoch is a realist. She puts a little dash of beast in everyone and the effect is a gentle bludgeoning which (sickeningly) we do understand, and from which (appallingly) we cannot tear our ears away.

I felt slightly shackled to this story. Even when I took a break from the listening, her words followed me. Everywhere. It is haunting. It is very powerful. Murdoch was an amazing talent. How many authors can conjure the perfect words to describe "eyes that are determined to lose hope"? She does this and other breathtaking word-feats. Aren't you curious?