Charles Arrowby, a longtime English stage actor and director, has retired to an isolated home near the village of Narrowdean, on the north coast of England. Charles begins writing in a journal about his past. Various ex-lovers and hangers-on from that past show up and complicate his retirement, and then he discovers his first love, Mary Hartley Smith (now Mrs. Ben Fitch), also lives in Narrowdean. The two were a couple at the tender age of 12, and through all his adventures with women since, Charles has dreamed of Hartley. He schemes about winning her back, rescuing her from her unpleasant, working-class husband, and perhaps mentoring their son Titus, who is estranged from his parents. Various characters are tempted to kill one another, and the dark heaving sea will kill at least one person before Charles rids himself of his many illusions. This slow and inconclusive but rich 1978 novel won the Booker prize for Murdoch.
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The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus