Iris Murdoch
The Sea, The Sea
Book Review by Author Ross Anthony

I came to this book on the recommendation of a fellow writer who found it important to her life’s journey. I skipped the lengthy introduction as to let the book reveal itself.

A novel-memoir, I thought at first of Murdoch, but no, she’s writing in first person for the fictional (I assume) Charles Arrowby, notable British thespian upon his solo retirement to a possibly haunted seaside cottage. Following too many pages of setting/descriptive prose, a Shakespearian entwinement of vividly drawn, richly expressed characters ensues.

Charming Charles is loathsome in his scheming and self-centeredness, it’s such a pleasure to watch him helplessly lose his wits when love spirits away his heart. He acts out a beautifully innocent childlike belief in true love. If you haven’t given up on him yet, you’ll root for him. You’ll believe in redemption. Alas, a life of bad behavior is not easily reformed. As Charles clumsily attempts to secure that love (fueled by a motive that toggles between a gleaming universal morality and simple selfish desire) his mind seems incapable of retreat from manipulatively probing the endless combinations of other peoples’ motives, intentions, plans, and vulnerabilities ripe for mining. And yet, between wine pouring evenings and calculating next moves, he occasionally ponders life and love with a sober eye and curious mind.

I enjoyed the richness of the writing, the relational dance of the eclectic cast of lavishly crafted characters (despite soapy coincidental meetings), and the intensity of the central drama; however, after the two-thirds mark, the book again slows, becoming drawn out and somewhat repetitive.

I’m glad I read it. I appreciated the marvelously crafted prose, the ease with which Murdoch transitions between past and present tenses, and especially the varying wonderings on the nature of life, love, and human nature. I picked those gems up along the way perhaps not unlike Charles who found a fulfilling solace in collecting colored stones along the sea, the sea.

Below are my favorite quotes:

“There will be time and motive enough to prose on about my life when I shall have generated as it were a sufficient cloud of reflection. I am still almost shy of my emotions, shy of the terrible strength of certain memories.”

“It may be a great ‘mouth’ opening to the daylight, or it may be a hole through which fires emerge from the centre of the earth. And am I still unsure which it is, and must I now approach in order to find out?”

“…like a tuning fork struck for a choir of angels.”

“…made me so browbeat the world as to accept me at my own valuation.”

“ There was a kind of dreadful violent leaping ahead in this thought, as if I were being powerfully jerked by something which already existed in the far-off future.”

“…afraid of her old love for me, still alive, blazing away there like an underground oil fire…”

“My thoughts had still to be kept on a leash…”

“You’re like a man firing a machine gun into a supermarket who happens not to become a murderer.”

“…actually anybody’s lucky to be loved by anybody and ought to be grateful…”

“…fate or God or something has given us to each other. Let us not stupidly miss this chance. Don’t let idiotic pride or suspicion or failure of imagination or failure of hope spoil this thing for us. Let us now and henceforth belong together. Never mind what it means exactly or what it will involve, we can’t see that yet.”

“But the past refused to come back, as it did in dreams, to be remade.”

“Even the few whom we genuinely adore we have to belittle secretly now and then … just to feed the healthy appetite of our wondrously necessary egos.”

“Anything can be tarnished by association, and if you have enough associations you can blacken the world.”

SPOILER ALERT: Here are some of my thoughts on some of the book’s mysteries:

To the best of my reading, James and Titus are the only characters to utter words of the book’s title: “The Sea, The Sea.” Additionally, they had met prior (Charles conjectures). My guess was that James is Titus’s father. And perhaps this is yet another reason Hartley is consumed with guilt.

Because of the comedy of coincidental meetings of main characters, I was beginning to suspect Charles’s friends had concocted the whole event as to craft an endearing revenge. But, alas, this is never spoken of, though it being Charles’s book - perhaps he didn’t get the joke.

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Saturday, 03-Oct-2020 07:48:35 PDT