Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Sea by John Banville

Despite its relatively small size (just over two hundred pages, double spaced paragraphs) The Sea proved to be a bit of a challenge to plough through. Admittedly, I found the mesmeric prose soporific, but if I had cared more about the characters, the effect might have been different.

The Sea is a tale of a summer during youth and a bereavement, told by an aged man. Returning to the place of numerous childhood summer holidays, Max is seeking a ghost or two, invoking memories, both recent and distant, of two significant episodes of loss.

Oddly, for a novel with death and love lost at its core, it is surprisingly unmoving. Max is both sentimental and supremely cold, veering between accounts of heightened emotions and dispassionate, self deprecatory remarks that belittle his experience and the memory of those he professes to love and cleave to.

Banville clearly has a masterful way with words, but sparkling prose isn’t enough to win me over. Max’s story fails to provoke even conflicted feelings, despite his piteous situation and how this contrasts with his instinct for self-preservation.


  1. Interesting review.. I have this one on my wish list since I think it was on the 1001 books you must read before you die list. Now I'm not so sure I need to read it!! Thanks for your honesty!!!

  2. There are several reviews of The Sea on this site. Lots of different opinions ... read them all!