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The Sea: A Novelby John Banville
2005 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
Banville's fluid prose glides over the pages of The Sea, a rich story filled with heart and bittersweet longing. I pored over the luminescent descriptions of time and place and the beautiful characters that make up this world. Clearly the Man Booker was well deserved.
Synopses & Reviews
The brilliant new novel by the Booker-shortlisted author of Shroud and The Book of Evidence, John Banville is, quite simply, one of the greatest novelists writing in the English language today. When Max Morden returns to the coastal town where he spent a holiday in his youth he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family appear that long ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon finds himself entangled in their lives, which are as seductive as they are unsettling. What ensues will haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that is to follow. John Banville is one of the most sublime writers working in the English language. Utterly compelling, profoundly moving and illuminating, The Sea is quite possibly the best thing he has ever written.
"Banville's magnificent new novel, which won this year's Man Booker Prize and is being rushed into print by Knopf, presents a man mourning his wife's recent death — and his blighted life. 'The past beats inside me like a second heart,' observes Max Morden early on, and his return to the seaside resort where he lost his innocence gradually yields the objects of his nostalgia. Max's thoughts glide swiftly between the events of his wife's final illness and the formative summer, 50 years past, when the Grace family — father, mother and twins Chloe and Myles — lived in a villa in the seaside town where Max and his quarreling parents rented a dismal 'chalet.' Banville seamlessly juxtaposes Max's youth and age, and each scene is rendered with the intense visual acuity of a photograph ('the mud shone blue as a new bruise'). As in all Banville novels, things are not what they seem. Max's cruelly capricious complicity in the sad history that unfolds, and the facts kept hidden from the reader until the shocking denouement, brilliantly dramatize the unpredictability of life and the incomprehensibility of death. Like the strange high tide that figures into Max's visions and remembrances, this novel sweeps the reader into the inexorable waxing and waning of life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A peculiar and profound satisfaction comes from experiencing the prose of John Banville. Like some aged liquor, potent and malty, his writing demands to be imbibed in appreciative sips, little by little." The Independent on Sunday
The author of "The Untouchable" ("contemporary fiction gets no better than this"--Patrick McGrath, "The New York Times Book Review") now gives readers a luminous novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory.
The author of The Untouchable (“contemporary fiction gets no better than this”—Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review) now gives us a luminous novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory.
The narrator is Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who, soon after his wifes death, has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child—a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his life without her. But it is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled vacationing family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. The seductive mother; the imperious father; the twins—Chloe, fiery and forthright, and Myles, silent and expressionless—in whose mysterious connection Max became profoundly entangled, each of them a part of the “barely bearable raw immediacy” of his childhood memories.
Interwoven with this story are Mordens memories of his wife, Anna—of their life together, of her death—and the moments, both significant and mundane, that make up his life now: his relationship with his grown daughter, Claire, desperate to pull him from his grief; and with the other boarders at the house where he is staying, where the past beats inside him “like a second heart.”
What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel—among the finest we have had from this extraordinary writer.
About the Author
John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. The author of thirteen previous novels, he has been the recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, and a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. He lives in Dublin.
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