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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY JOHN BURNSIDE When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099284093
ISBN-10: 009928409X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 35mm)
Pages: 560
Imprint: Vintage Classics
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Aug-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Booker Prize Winner in 1978. When director, playwright and actor Charles retires from his glittering London world to become a hermit, it is to the sea that he turns. He hopes to escape from 'the women' but, unexpectedly, meets one whom he loved long ago. Charles learns that his solitude is inhabited by the drama of his own fantasies and obsessions. Intellectually challenging and imaginatively satisfying, this was a great choice for the Booker Prize. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » "There is a faint smell of fire and brimstone when something of the past comes tearing to the surface vivid and complete." So says 60-ish Charles - famed theater personality, an egotist who gives exquisite attention to life's small pleasures, and somewhat of a stinker - who is now a recluse in a curious old house on a wild English promontory breasting the sea. But obscenely arising from Charles' clean sea is a sea monster (an LSD trip rerun?), and there are other spectral matters hinting of demons abroad, as Charles ruminates his past, from a childhood Eden wriggling with jealousies and envy to an adulthood dotted incidentally with women. The older woman he did really love, now dead, partner in shuttlecock rounds of rows and reunions. Ferocious Rosina, whom Charles levered away from her husband, then refused to marry. And slavish Lizzie, always the good little girl for the asking. These women, among others, Charles niched in order of utility. But one relationship was on a different, pure plane. Hartley, ah Hartley, "My first love and. . . my only love. . . my end and my beginning." Hartley, when they were both young, refused Charles to marry another - and disappeared. Now, 40 years later, when Charles' world is about to quake, Hartley reappears, "a stout, elderly woman. . . holding a shopping bag." Charles, repossessed by a love that is "absolute," sets out to shake Hartley from her husband in their tea-cosy cottage, with feverish avowals and labyrinthine scheming. Hartley sobs and rages within this vise of adoration, and a motley crew of Charles' "friends" attempts to head off Charles' manic pursuit. But there's a wind change as a young man is drowned, and Rosina's ex-husband makes an admirably forthright attempt to dispatch Charles. Then storms subside in criss-cross ripples of new unions and new bafflements. Although the metaphysical games can snarl a bit, this bright play with the demons that we unleash on one another is entertainment both sly and tantalizing. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919. She read Classics at Somerville College, Oxford, and after working in the Treasury and abroad, was awarded a research studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1948 she returned to Oxford as fellow and tutor at St Anne's College and later taught at the Royal College of Art. Until her death in 1999, she lived in Oxford with her husband, the academic and critic, John Bayley. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987 and in the 1997 PEN Awards received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net. Her twenty-six novels include the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978), the James Tait Black Memorial prize-winning The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread prize-winning The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her philosophy includes Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (1953) and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); other philosophical writings, including The Sovereignty of Good (1970), are collected in Existentialists and Mystics (1997).

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