“Today there is a pleasant very light haze over the whole sky, and the sea has a misleadingly docile silvered look, as if the substantial wavelets were determined to stroke the rocks as hard as they could without showing any trace of foam. It is a compact radiant complacent sort of sea, very beautiful.”
Iris Murdoch, an Irish-born writer, studied philosophy at Somerville College, Oxford and at Newnham College, Cambridge. In addition to her philosophical writings, plays and poetry, Murdoch wrote 26 novels over the course of her life.
I picked up this book in preparation for writing my own novel next month. I wanted to refresh my brain on good literary fiction, as it has been quite a while since I’ve read any.
Murdoch wrote “The Sea, the Sea” from the perspective of Charles Arrowby, a theatre retiree. The book takes the form, in the beginning, of Arrowby’s memoirs and slowly evolves into a kind of journal. The character recounts events from his past, as well as events, feelings and thoughts from his present day.
While the story has all sorts of intrigue, violence and emotional rollercoasters, the true treasure of “The Sea, the Sea” is Murdoch’s beautifully developed scene descriptions.
Each and every time, she employed language that makes the reader feel like they are truly experiencing what Arrowby was experiencing. For example: “The sea which lies before me as I write glows rather than sparkles in the bland May sunshine. With the tide turning, it leans quietly against the land, almost unflecked by ripples or by foam.”
While the book was a bit long and felt very drawn out in the “Postscript,” I highly recommend it. It is a must-read for anyone that enjoys literary fiction.