63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Another masterpiece from Banville
, 24 Aug. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Sea (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.
"The Sea" is a rich, rewarding and beautifully evoked novel that resonates with the reader. We are fortunate to have a writer of Banville's calibre - and the comparisons with Proust and Beckett are, for once, appropriate for a living writer - working at the height of his powers and producing books of this quality.
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