> Skip to content
Play sample
  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784875190
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 608
  • RRP: $22.99

The Sea, The Sea (Vintage Classics Murdoch Series)

A BBC Between the Covers Big Jubilee Read Pick

Iris Murdoch's Booker Prize-winning novel – now republished as part of the Vintage Classics Murdoch Series.
Six gorgeous editions of her best, funniest and most subversive novels published to mark her centenary.

'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.**


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

  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784875190
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 608
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

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).

Also by Iris Murdoch

See all

Praise for The Sea, The Sea (Vintage Classics Murdoch Series)

Dazzlingly entertaining and inventive

The Times

One of the most ambitious tours de force in many years... There are pages one races through to see what happens. She is a virtuoso at description

Daily Mail

There is no doubt in my mind that Iris Murdoch is one of the most important novelists now writing in English...The power of her imaginative vision, her intelligence and her awareness and revelation of human truth are quite remarkable

The Times

A fantastic feat of imagination as well as a marvellous sustained piece of writing


It isn't all brainy fantasising in Murdochland; there's wild swimming, appalling sandwiches, death, madness and sex.


How bloody good her novels are – how intelligent, how lucent, how divinely crazy. They’re fun – I’d forgotten that

Sarah Waters, Guardian

It was the first book I read by this brilliant author, and encouraged me to go on and read almost all her others. It is at times incredibly funny, moving and mysterious. Murdoch creates drama in the real world with flawed humans and yet there is also a spiritual layer that creeps up on you

Jude Law

Just like the sea, this novel ebbs and flows, at times fast-paced and full of action, at others reflective… a mesmerising and addictive read

Woman's Weekly

The Sea, The Sea is both a novel entirely about the era in which it was written and one that reflects – at an angle – the place and time we are living in… it is a joy to read: a rollicking story that seems endlessly to be building towards some awful, hilarious, frightening conclusion

Daisy Johnson, Harper's Bazaar