Overall, I felt really let down by The Sea. Banville had some fabulous, even profound, sentences in this book. I admit that I was transfixed much of the time, if only by the beauty of the prose. Furthermore, the atmosphere Banville created was great. In the end, it just didn't do it for me. It felt like a lot of beauty but without much substance to hold on to.
The story held great promise. After his wife dies, Max Morden, now getting fairly old, goes back to a seaside town where he holidayed as a child. What follows is a mesh of the present and the past, in often beautiful prose. He recalls one particular summer when he met Chloe Grace, a young girl who helps him out of innocence and introduces him to loss.
However, I really didn't enjoy the passages about the past. The most evocative and emotional parts for me were when Max reflects on his late wife. I wanted to spend more time here, but the book (as I remember it) focuses mostly on the tragic past, and it almost felt like it was that way because of the tremendously traumatic, almost sensationally so, summer. More for shock than for what it added to his understanding of his current plight. The present was more subtle, more real, and sadly more remote.
2 stars out of 5.