The Sea
John Banville
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Buy *The Sea* online

The Sea
John Banville
208 pages
August 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Man Booker Prize winning author John Banville’s (The Untouchable, Nightspawn Birchwood, Doctor Copernicus, The Book Of Evidence) latest novel, The Sea, is an exquisite story of loss and memory. The protagonist, Max Morden, is mourning the recent death of his wife while coming to grips with an event earlier in his life that is proving to be just as hard to deal with. Max decides to go back to a coastal town in which he spent a memorable time as a boy. The memory of that time revolves around the Grace family and the twins Chloe and Myles. Quickly Max is sucked into an odd relationship with them and is forever scarred by events that followed. The novel is juxtaposed between the times of past summers, the year of his wife’s illness, and the present. It’s quite an amazing novel that opens up with beautiful yet haunting prose.

“They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. The rusted hulk of the freighter that had run aground at the far end of the bay longer ago than any of us could remember must have thought it was being granted a relaunch. I would not swim again, after that day. The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam. They looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds. The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline. No sail marred the high horizon. I would not swim, no, not ever again. Someone just walked over my grave. Someone.”
If Banville’s style of poetic prose is your cup of tea, then this book will give you goosebumps. You could turn to almost any page in The Sea and find this quality of writing. Some could easily scoff at it, calling it overblown or bloated. I don’t equate crafty wordsmiths with those born with the gift to tell a good story, but The Sea is deserving of all its praise. At just one hundred and ninety-five pages, the story is short enough that you can let any personal preconceived notions on the style pass. Great book.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2005

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