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Follow the Author
The Sea (Picador 40th Anniversary Editn) Kindle Edition
You can smell and feel and see his world with extraordinary clarity. It is a work of art, and I’ll bet it will still be read and admired in seventy-five years. -- Rick Gekoski ― The Times
Poetry seems to come easily to Banville. There is so much to applaud in this book that it deserves more than one reading. ― Literary Review
A brilliant, sensuous, discombobulating novel. ― Spectator --This text refers to the paperback edition.
From the Publisher
- ASIN : B008573RRS
- Publisher : Picador; Main Market edition (17 May 2005)
- Language : English
- File size : 330 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 152 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 7,175 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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John reveals his unique perspective and deep appreciation of the real issues of life, in poetic expression that creates a richness to his prose never seen before.
So I was both excited and apprehensive to read the Sea, Banville’s Man Booker prize winner, because I feared being disappointed.
I’m relieved to say that I LOVE JOHN BANVILLE! So much. Unequivocally.
His writing beguiles me. His writing consumes me. His descriptions and metaphors are works of art. His way with words, the turn of phrases are surprising and oh, so wonderful! I’m awed. I’m mesmerised.
Every phrase is polished, sometimes to a blinding glare, and it hits you and you’re left wondering - how does he do that!?!
Fair or not, Banville has become the yardstick against which I'll measure literary fiction. As far as I’m concerned, Banville should be studied. Because he’s unique, and surprising, and a wordsmith.
I retract everything I’ve been saying about not being a fan of the first person narrative. Had I read Banville sooner, I wouldn’t have made such a preposterous statement.
'The Sea' is a character driven novel. The narrator is Max Marden, a dilettante in his fifties. Following the death of his wife, Anna, the mother of his only child, Claire, Max is unable to move on. He’s dazed and mostly lives in the past. A certain summer of his childhood, when he met the Graces, is remembered in great detail. He remembers the smells, the tastes and the feelings of those times, in the little town by the sea. Banville weaves his way between the present and the past in a seamless way. Current and past happenings intermingle. The mind wanders and certain memories and feelings resurface. "How the mind wonders, even at the most concentrated of occasions."
Happiness was different in childhood. It was so much then a matter simply of accumulation, of taking things - new experiences, new emotions - and applying them like so many polished tiles to what would someday be the marvellously finished pavilion of the self.
As in the Blue Guitar, Banville’s way of describing people, especially people the narrator loves, made me go - Oh, no, you didn’t just say that! You see, Banville doesn’t wax lyrically about one's beauty the way we’re used to reading. His descriptions of people are like no other writers'.
Take Claire for instance, Max’s daughter. “What age is she now, twenty something. I’m not sure. She is very bright, quite the bluestocking. Not beautiful, however, I admitted that to myself long ago. I cannot pretend this is not a disappointment, for I had hoped that she would be another Anna. She is too tall and stark, her rusty hair is coarse and untameable and stand out around her freckled face in an unbecoming manner, and when she smiles she shows her upper gums, glistening and whitely pink. With those spindly legs and big bum, that hair, the long neck especially … Yet she is brave and makes the best of herself and of the world. She has the rueful, grimly humorous, clomping way to her that is common to so many ungainly girls. … Dear Claire, my sweet girl.” See what I mean?
Max isn’t any kinder with his own description. How about this extraordinarily accurate, I thought, spot on description of one getting startled by his/her own reflection? “There was a time when I quite liked what I saw in the looking-glass, but not anymore. Now I’m startled, and more than startled, by the visage that so abruptly appears there, never at all the one that I expect. I have been elbowed aside by a parody of myself, a sadly dishevelled figure in a Halloween mask made of sagging, pinkish- grey rubber that bears no more than a passing resemblance to the image of what I look like that I stubbornly retain in my head.” And there’s much more of that.
This novel is, to a great extent, about grief. About dying and loneliness. Because "perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it.”
There is so much to say and analyse about this novel.
There are better, more eloquent reviews out there.
I am just a mere mortal who is completely and utterly spellbound by John Banville’s writing.
Again, I take a bow.
Top reviews from other countries
The Sea, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2005, is about Max Morden, a retired art historian grieving for his wife who has died of cancer. Her death has rekindled bad memories from his youth when, during one summer, two of his friends (a girl who he had a crush on and her twin brother) were tragically drowned in the seaside resort town where he and his parents were holidaying. To ease his grief and to reconcile with the past, Max decides to go back to the seaside town (named Ballyless) and stay for a few weeks in a guesthouse that he much frequented during his childhood. The novel is full of witty observations, reflections and philosophical mutterings, along with many twists and turns – swaying back and forth between the current day and memories going back fifty years.
The whole story is wonderfully crafted, extremely well told and is paced beautifully throughout. Is it a great story? Not quite. It's a good story though. Ultimately, I enjoyed it but it's certainly not the most cheerful book I have ever read. This is essentially a novel about grief, so yes there are times when the reader will get a bit fed up. I know I did, and on two occasions over a ten-day period, I placed it aside for a day or two before resuming. Whether it was intentional or not, the novel stirred up in me a range of emotions, not uncommon with grief, so there were times when I felt sad, angry and tired. Having said that, I also laughed (sometimes out loud) at the Irish humour used in his character descriptions. I have just ordered the DVD of the 2013 film, based on the book, which stars Ciarán Hinds and Charlotte Rampling. It will be interesting to see how the film matches up to the book.
The memories from childhood for me were the better bits of the book. Interspersed with Max in the present, and Max with his wife and daughter.
The landscape, especially by the sea, is painted beautifully, as is the intensity of the lonely little boy. I found that the denseness of the vocabulary felt rather like the whole thing had been overworked, it disturbed the flow.
And this is the great pivotal point- his style. I think it has a real Marmite factor- love it or hate it, or in fact some combination of the two. At times, I found myself nodding appreciatively with how powerful his vignettes were- for example, the kiss in the cinema, the hairwashing scene and the part where the main character flips out while watching a nature documentary (none of these are spoilers, by the way). But an equal number of times I clocked myself shaking my head in annoyance with how deliberate, artful and writerly his prose is. People speak of his writing as being like poetry, but isn't that a genre category error? We're reading a novel here, aren't we? And call me conventional, but bedecking virtually every single sentence with some kind of simile doesn't do much for pacing or plot.
Overall, if you like impressionistic, modernist literature in the tradition of Virginia Woolf, and you prefer reflections, feelings and sensations, then you will love this. As an oblique discussion on the isolating nature of grief it's compelling. On the other hand, if you like highly developed and intriguing plotting, three-dimensional and sympathetic characterisation, some appreciation of motive and real relationships, then forget it. To be honest, the increasing misanthropy and solipsism of the main character started to really grate on me. He seemed to barely regard other people as actual entities, and only functions in his own tortured process of recollection, regret and despair.
A much better book is the similarly titled 'The Sea, the Sea' by Iris Murdoch, which also won the Booker prize, and is also about a writer confronting his past as it collides with his present.