We had the first of our spring dose of heavy rains two nights ago, which brought a morning of a yard covered in deep puddles. I have mixed emotions about the spring rain. On the other hand, nothing can compare to the smell of renewal in the air as the first crocuses start to flower and the daffodils grow out of the cold ground. Birds sing constantly. The chipmunks come back and the bunnies come out in the mornings and late afternoons.
But the water. Since our basement disaster of two years ago, water has always been bit terrifying. I’m continually imagining that moment when I stepped onto the floor and watched the water seep out of the cracks in the laminate. However, as time passes, I’m starting to let it go. This spring that’s extra important. I’ve had a few health issues that are giving me the warning that I need to calm down.
So it’s time to take walks in the spring air, listen to the sound of the rain, and breathe.
A Word About the Edition
My copy of the The Sea, The Sea is from Vintage Classics and is part of the six volume set that my lovely spouse gave me for Valentine’s Day last year. The covers are lushly coloured drawing of plants and figures by Bijou Karman in a style that conjures the illustrations of the 1960s or 1970s. I had read some of Murdoch’s work previously, but I admit that I wanted this set because the book design (by Suzanne Dean) was gorgeous from the covers to the selection of typeface and the ratio of text to margins.
One small drawback I will make note of is that the covers are matte in texture, which is not quite pleasant to my fingers or grip. Personally, it tends to make my hands sweaty when I’m reading for a long time. Also, it’s a bit easier to get scuffed and wears more quickly than smoother covers. But that aside, this set is fantastic, artistically designed, and looks great on the shelf.
However, if you prefer not to purchase Murdoch’s work new, I’ve also always found it incredibly easy to find her novels in second-hand bookstores.
Patterns I’ve Noticed
If you’re unfamiliar with Murdoch’s work and her writing style, I will caution that to fully appreciate the prose you have to have a little bit of patience. Murdoch’s novels are structured very precisely and in such a way that the reader spends a good deal of time at the front of the book reading about setting, background information, and all the elements that will be important later. The reader needs to invest a bit of time initially in order to get the most out of the narrative and the work as a whole.
I’m not trying to say that Murdoch’s beginnings are boring. The pace in the first few chapters is often slower than in the rest of the book with a lot of information to digest. But if you are patient and pay attention, the reward is watching Murdoch painstakingly take all of the elements and weave them together tightly and intricately as well as in completely unexpected ways. Her stories are always surprising, and the connections she makes between events and characters propel the narrative forward by leaps and bounds once they begin to be revealed and explored.
An Intricate Web of Delusions and Lies
The plot of The Sea, The Sea swirls around one very unreliable narrator and his delusional ideas about himself, the people around him, the past, and the world in general. Charles Arrowby has had a long career in theatre and has decided to retire to a very rundown house by the sea. His plan initially is to write his memoirs and reflect on his life — more specifically on the relationships he’s had with friends, lovers, and family, and how horribly he has behaved in each of them.
In the midst of his retirement from the world, Arrowby stumbles across a woman named Hartley Fitch that he considers his only love who left him in his youth. Now he is determined to resurrect the past and make up for lost time, but the reality of Fitch is very different from Arrowby’s memory of her and his plans for the future are nothing short of delusion. Adding to this is Fitch’s own erratic behaviour and the lies she tells both Arrowby and herself.
In The Sea, The Sea, Murdoch skillfully creates a tapestry of delusions and lies that challenges the reader to think about events objectively even when the narrators are unable to escape their own illusions and the lies they tell themselves.
I Forgot About Yard Work
Every spring, I spend the first few warm spring days just enjoying the sunshine and the fresh green, newly sprouted grass. Then I start to look around the yard and realize that all of the outdoor tasks and chores are lying in wait.
We have to clean up the yard, get the soil ready for the few things we want to plant, make plans for the catio we want to build, and get some grass seed to help out the front yard. It’s going to be busy, but I also know that I’ll enjoy the fresh air. I’m happy to report that the cats are already enjoying it via their new harness training that everyone (except Bandersnatch) is progressing wonderfully with.
This is the last review for Women’s History Month! For the next month or so, my plan is to do a little spring cleaning by finishing a few things in my half-read stacks.