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The Sea Paperback – 5 Mar 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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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 (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
A middle-aged man, Max Morden, returns to a seaside village, a place from his childhood, in a journey of memories following the death of his wife. As the story develops, many secrets unfold, in a dramatic story of life and death and a disclosure that completely changes Max's perception of the events that took place.

The stunning feature of the book is Banville's writing. It is intensely poetic. It is filled with images and nuances. From every word is squeezed the last drop of meaning, suggestion and emotion. With few fragments of reported speech and little quotations, there is no dialogue. Instead we have a soliloquy that conveys the thoughts, feelings and memories of a man coming to terms with bereavement and death.

Don't expect a fast-paced action story. This is a beautiful book, a work of art in which the stories interweave and the scenes are described at a pace that lets them breathe as we are drawn deeply into Max's troubling and painful world. Even through this, there is a sense of optimism and rebirth: the novel is aptly named, for the sea was there at the beginning, will wash clean, and will be there at the end.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Sea" is a profound meditation on time, loss, memory and longing. Once again, Banville introduces the slightly effete, cultured, late middle-aged male character with a taste for alcohol and a dyspeptic view of the world that we recognise from previous Banville novels. Max Morden has lost his wife to cancer and retreats into a world of nostalgia and a longing for the simplicities of the past, but the past with its lost innocence and simpler relationships carries its own tragedies, and the constant presence of the sea at the edges of the narrative is a metaphor for the unknowability of the forces that shape, and occasionally end lives.
Banville's prose is at his most luminous in "The Sea"; I frequently paused to re-read passages and phrases which captured an essence so accurately or described an image or a feeling with such beauty and aptness that I was left wondering how these effects could be created with mere words.
Banville's work has clearly been influenced by Proust, most obviously in this novel about memory and lost time, but unlike most authors for whom this is true, the comparison with Proust is not an unfavourable one. There is also the strong influence of Samuel Beckett running through all of Banville's work, particularly in the extended interior monologues that constitute his novels (even the occasional passages of dialogue are refracted through the perception of the narrator, so that they become part of his interior thoughts). However, more than in previous novels, the sense of Beckett-esque detachment is moderated by the sense of loss and yearning that permeates the novel, and which makes Max Mordern a more human and sympathetic character than his predecessors in Banville's other novels.
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