The Sea

The Sea

Book - 2005 | 1st American ed.
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In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel -- among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2005.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 9781400097029
Branch Call Number: FIC BANVILL
Characteristics: 195 p. ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

Profound and beautifully written, Banville's novel of a widower in mourning combines raw emotion and gorgeous metaphors to dramatize life's unpredictabilty and the human struggle with death.

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Jan 26, 2018

Self-conscious & pretentious. Maybe I will finish it another time when I am feeling more generous.

Feb 28, 2017

This man Banville is damn good at what he does, even though the result is not always pleasing. He has what I perceive as the Irish sickness -- indulgence in gloom and an obsession with death. It has almost caused me to give up on Irish writers altogether. Banville's protagonist (aptly named Max Morden) subjects himself to starkly merciless self-examination; he's a neurotic, morose hypochondriac. That he has been emotionally stricken by the death of his wife I can certainly accept; but that he has never recovered from a childhood infatuation and related grief of some fifty years previous is taking things too far. There are many pages of self-flagellation and navel gazing where nothing much really happens.
On a more positive note, Banville's facility with prose is admirable. His extravagance of language is at times spectacular. Like the Cheshire Cat, he takes great liberties with the conventional meaning of words, even creating his own variations as he sees fit. I'm sure no one else has ever included all of catafalque, crepitant, apotheosis, clamacteric, histrionic euphoria, Valhalla petulance and posthumous transfiguration in one single page! Are some of those even words? Anyway, his prose is also livened up with a number of oddities: For example, he talks to himself as a writer, inserting little asides, critiquing his own sentences. His protagonist (Banville himself, surely?) is hypersensitive to smells, going on at great length about their significance. And when he chooses to do so, he can be hilariously droll.
To sum up: Not very much of a story, a singularly unattractive protagonist but fabulous language almost redeems it. A strong 3 1/2 stars.

Feb 22, 2017

Winner of the Man Booker prize in 2005 this is an elegiac beautifully written piece of prose that lack even the pretence of a plot and very thinly drawn characters. Banville, who prides himself on his exquisitely written sentences, on the musical cadence of his prose hit a home run on those aspects This protagonist is among the least objectionable of his normal lineup but can't we get a Banville book written in that sublime prose that has a nice plot and a protagonist that we don't hate?

Dec 11, 2015

Wintry. It's not just the beautiful language that redeems the gloom, but this character, in his wonderful sublime stream of consciousness, sometimes becomes humanly trivial.

Jun 18, 2015


Oct 24, 2014

I lost total interest in this this one. Although beautifully written, I kept gravitating away from it until I simply dropped it back into the library return box - not even halfway through.

Nov 24, 2013

It may have won the Booker, but I gave up 1/2 way through. Way too precious for my taste, although there are some wonderful bits.

Jeremy410 Feb 12, 2013

Not my idea of a good read. Although a short book, it feels much longer.

Aug 06, 2012

I really enjoyed this novel. It is a complex and extremely well-written book. I plan to read more of Banville's work.

Jul 16, 2012

Banville's lyrical waltz through the dark corridors of grief put to words introspections and feelings that bereaved may feel but be unable to express. The way in which Banvilles brings his main character into reflective moments then abruptly into fantastical or detached recollections of fond moments from his past is a testament to how difficult reflecting on grief can be psychologically. The scattered memories and thoughts of pay homage to the beautiful nature of the little moments in life that shine through changes and time.

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