The Sea

The Sea

by John Banville
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Reprint, ©2006, ISBN: 9781400097029
Trade Paperback, 195 pages
Current Retail Price: $14.95
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While Banville's content is reminiscent of his primary influences—Nabokov, Dostoevsky, Proust—his fluid prose is his own. Delving into some of his darker preoccupations, particularly death and the pain of memory, Banville writes The Sea with a profound sense of the titular locale as both metaphor and physical space.

The narrator, a do-nothing named Max Morden who dabbles in art history, returns to the house in which his first love spent her holidays with dysfunctional parents and a mute twin brother. He mourns his wife and the past itself, the horror and the pain, the brief joys more intense in recollection. He remembers his first pseudo-sexual encounter with Chloe Grace, his infatuation with her mother, his miserable upbringing, the illness and death of his wife Anna, his awkward relationship with his lonely daughter Claire.

Known for his metaphysical fiction, in The Sea Banville avoids the verbal ostentation of his earlier novels, relying on a poetic style which moves easily from reflection to narrative. Through Morden he explores the caprice of memory, its unreliability, the uncertainty and certainty of death, and the nature of love and its vicious corollary, lust. Unlike many writers, he weaves his narrative by means of these threads, rather than in spite of them.

The beauty of the prose can be distracting at times—the cadence and haunting metaphors are hypnotic. Yet the content brings the novel together, making the strictly abstract visceral and understandable. The unforgettable (and appropriately disturbing) ending reconciles these elements beautifully without offering false answers or too much information. Winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, The Sea is an ode to, a criticism of, and an artistic interpretation of the living remembering those who were.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Some language, sexual references
Summary: An aging man reflects on those he's loved and lost in an attempt to come to terms with his memory and its limits.

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