First published in 1961, The Severed Head is regarded is one of Iris Murdoch’s most entertaining works. A dark and ferocious comic masterpiece, the novel traces the turbulent emotional journey of Martin Lynch-Gibbon, a smug, well-to-do London wine merchant and unfaithful husband, whose life is turned inside out when his wife leaves him for her psychoanalyst.
In The Sea, the Sea the landscape shifts to the seclusion of an isolated house on the edge of England’s North Sea, where Charles Arrowby, a big name in London’s glittering theatrical world, has retired to write his memoirs. Arrowby’s plans begin to unravel when he meets his first love and becomes haunted by the idea of rekindling his adolescent passion.
The Severed Head and Booker prize-winner The Sea, the Sea are two of Iris Murdoch’s most accomplished novels, displaying all her talent for combining profundity with playful creativity. Both tragic and comic, brooding and hilarious, they brilliantly reveal how much our lives are governed by the lies we tell ourselves as well as our all-consuming desire for love, significance and, ultimately, redemption.