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The Sea Paperback – 5 Mar 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (5 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330483293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330483292
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Incandescent prose. Beautifully textured characterisation. Transparent narratives. The adjectives to describe the writing of John Banville are all affirmative, and The Sea is a ringing affirmation of all his best qualities. His publishers are claiming that this novel by the Booker-shortlisted author is his finest yet, and while that claim may have an element of hyperbole, there is no denying that this perfectly balanced book is among the writer’s most accomplished work.

Max Morden has reached a crossroads in his life, and is trying hard to deal with several disturbing things. A recent loss is still taking its toll on him, and a trauma in his past is similarly proving hard to deal with. He decides that he will return to a town on the coast at which he spent a memorable holiday when a boy. His memory of that time devolves on the charismatic Grace family, particularly the seductive twins Myles and Chloe. In a very short time, Max found himself drawn into a strange relationship with them, and pursuant events left their mark on him for the rest of his life. But will he be able to exorcise those memories of the past?

The fashion in which John Banville draws the reader into this hypnotic and disturbing world is non pareil, and the very complex relationships between his brilliantly delineated cast of characters are orchestrated with a master’s skill. As in such books as Shroud and The Book of Evidence, the author eschews the obvious at all times, and the narrative is delivered with subtlety and understatement. The genuine moments of drama, when they do occur, are commensurately more powerful. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'Banville broodingly captures the way the past returns to reclaim the present’ -- Sunday Times -Paperback Pick of the Week

'What a tremendous guide the phenomenally talented Banville is to the strangeness of ourselves and our journey’ -- The Observer -Paperback of the Week

‘An undeniably important work of fiction, whose soaring Joycean lyricism can take your breath away' -- Sunday Times -Paperback Pick of the Week

‘Characteristically Banvillian are its honed and intricately wrought prose style, full of poetical descriptions' -- Sunday Telegraph

‘One of the more interesting titles that the [Booker} prize has been conferred upon recently' -- Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘One of the most rewarding and humane novels of recent years' -- The Observer -Paperback of the Week

‘Strenuously elegiac … dazzling poetry’ -- Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 18 Dec. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Booker Prize-winning author John Banville presents a sensitive and remarkably complete character study of Max Morden, an art critic/writer from Ireland whose wife has just died of a lingering illness. Seeking solace, Max has checked into the Cedars, a now dilapidated guest house in the seaside village of Ballyless, where he and his family spent their summers when he was a child. There he spent hours in the company of Chloe and Myles Grace, his constant companions. Images of foreboding suggest that some tragedy occurred while he was there, though the reader discovers only gradually what it might have been. Now at the Cedars, he contemplates the nature of life, love, and death, and our imperfect memories of these momentous events.
As Max probes his recollections, he reveals his most intimate feelings, constantly questions the accuracy of his memory, and juxtaposes his childhood memories and his recent memories of his wife Anna's "inappropriate" illness and her futile treatments. Through flashbacks, he also introduces us to his earlier life with Anna and his fervent hopes that through her he could become someone more interesting. "I was always a distinct no-one, whose fiercest wish was to be an indistinct someone," he says, confessing that he saw her as "the fairground mirror in which all my distortions would be made straight."
More a meditation than a novel with a strong plot, The Sea brings Max to life (such as his life is), recreating his seemingly simple, yet often profound, thoughts in language which will startle the reader into recognition of their universality. To some extent an everyman, Max speaks to the reader in uniquely intimate ways.
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By jfp2006 on 8 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
The awarding of the 2005 Booker Prize (by a whisker, it was admitted) to John Banville for his fourteenth novel - he had previously been shorlisted in 1989 for his astonishing stylistic fusion of penitence (for his crimes) and damn-the-whole-lot-of-you indictment (of society in general), “The Book of Evidence” - was, inevitably, considered a controversial choice.
The tone of “The Sea” is in many ways similar to that of “The Book of Evidence”, and of his other fiction in general. It is another first-person narrative, this time that of the ageing art-historian Max Morden, recently widowed (or ‘widowered’, as he himself tentatively suggests), following the death of his wife, Anna, from cancer, and seeking refuge, solace and a clearer understanding of the past, in a seaside village where he used to spend holidays as a child. His only immediate company there is his enigmatic landlady, Miss Vavasour, and the one other guest, the somewhat caricatural Colonel Blunden...
who may not in fact be a retired colonel at all. Who may very well be a total fraud. But then the question marks hanging over both Miss Vavasour and the colonel are small ones in comparison with the increasing enigma surrounding the narrator himself. As he reminisces alternately about the mysterious Grace family, both feared and worshipped during one of the childhood holidays in the same village, and about the meaning of his marriage to the rich Anna, the reader gradually understands that these are only aspects of a far deeper meditation about his own life and increasingly fragmenting sense of identity and personality.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 25 April 2007
Format: Paperback
This was the first book of Banvilles that I have read (yes, I'm a slave to the Booker) but I found it enjoyable and exceptionally rewarding. In some ways this reminded me of Something Happened by Joseph Heller - the book was a tender description of his feelings for all but the last few pages when there is a dramatic event and then a revelation. Banville is a skilled writer, and the character of Max emerges complete - the way that the other characters sometime appear to be half-formed reflects the way we sometimes review the past.

I especially enjoyed the way that he wedded the past to the recent present, interweaving recollections about the two women he had loved, though one got the sense it was the ghost of the past to whom he felt the most attachment.

The beauty of the book was added to by the deployment of a rich vocabulary - it was a real feast of adjectives - that didn't smother the book but helped to heighten the tenderness Max felt for his past. Whilst it is true that there isn't much meat to this slender volume, Banville has created a fragile story that reflects the nature of the love he writes about.

It is easy to see why this book stood out to the Booker judges - it is essentially a dissertation of feeling rather than a dramtic love story. This is a book that is definitely worth investigating, though not if you enjoy a big plot and plenty of action.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alexis Paladin on 23 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
Banville makes no secret of the fact that when he writes using the pseudonym 'Benjamin Black' he is able to work quickly and relatively easily whilst when it comes to his 'literary' works he is resolutely meticulous in both their planning and execution. In 'The Sea' this is evident from the very first page. It is immediately apparent that he has very carefully considered the style and structure of his novel which is unusual in many ways. Some examples; there is no reported speech, the narrative comes from three distinct time periods and is diffused through a psychologically damaged and therefore potentially unreliable narrator and key elements of the plot, such as it is, are slowly, often painstakingly revealed. Moreover, one can tell that Banville has spent a great deal of time considering each sentence, both the ways the words follow each other and the words themselves. Sometimes this fastidiousness works; despite the fact that book has very little conventional story the reader is still drawn in as Banville's narrator flits between the tale of his burgeoning sexuality, the loss of his wife and his present day attempts to make sense of it all and it is hard not to be impressed by the creative dexterity of much of the prose.

However, inspiring admiration for your undoubted literary talents is not in itself enough to make your novel great. As the book progresses the relentless use of clever words begins to grate a little. It is impossible to read the book without a thesaurus at hand and one cannot help but suspect, perhaps unfairly, that Banville wrote the book with Roget similarly close by.
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