The Sea, the Sea is a novel by Iris Murdoch. It won the Booker Prize in 1978.
The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as he begins to write his memoirs. Played out against a vividly rendered landscape and filled with allusions to myth and magic, Murdoch exposes the jumble of motivations that drive her characters - the human vanity, jealousy, and lack of compassion behind the disguises they present to the world.
Charles Arrowby, its central figure, decides to withdraw from the world and dwell in seclusion in a house by the sea. Whilst there, by an extraordinary coincidence he encounters his first love, Mary Hartley Fitch, whom he has not seen since his love affair with her as an adolescent. Although she is almost unrecognisable in old age, and totally outside his theatrical world, he becomes obsessed by her, idealizing his former relationship with her and attempting to persuade her to elope with him.
His inability to recognise the egotism and selfishness of his own romantic ideals is at the heart of the novel. After the farcical and abortive kidnapping of Mrs. Fitch by Arrowby, he is left to mull over her rejection in an enjoyably self-obssessional and self-aggrandising manner over the space of several chapters.
"How much, I see as I look back, I read into it all, reading my own dream text and not looking at the reality... Yes of course I was in love with my own youth... Who is one's first love?"