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The Sea Paperback – Aug 15 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Aug. 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400097029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400097029
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Incandescent prose. Beautifully textured characterisation. Transparent narratives. The adjectives to describe the writing of John Banville are all affirmative, and The Sea is a ringing affirmation of all his best qualities. His publishers are claiming that this novel by the Booker-shortlisted author is his finest yet, and while that claim may have an element of hyperbole, there is no denying that this perfectly balanced book is among the writer’s most accomplished work.

Max Morden has reached a crossroads in his life, and is trying hard to deal with several disturbing things. A recent loss is still taking its toll on him, and a trauma in his past is similarly proving hard to deal with. He decides that he will return to a town on the coast at which he spent a memorable holiday when a boy. His memory of that time devolves on the charismatic Grace family, particularly the seductive twins Myles and Chloe. In a very short time, Max found himself drawn into a strange relationship with them, and pursuant events left their mark on him for the rest of his life. But will he be able to exorcise those memories of the past?

The fashion in which John Banville draws the reader into this hypnotic and disturbing world is non pareil, and the very complex relationships between his brilliantly delineated cast of characters are orchestrated with a master’s skill. As in such books as Shroud and The Book of Evidence, the author eschews the obvious at all times, and the narrative is delivered with subtlety and understatement. The genuine moments of drama, when they do occur, are commensurately more powerful. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lee's thrillingly resonant baritone makes Banville's poetic evocation of the brooding Max Morden even more absorbing. As the story oscillates between two pivotal times in Morden's life—the strange events of a boyhood summer by the sea in Ireland, and the illness and death of his wife half a century later—Banville makes Morden's world fully rounded with endlessly intricate thoughts and perceptions. The lyrical writing, full of half-rhymes and alliteration, blossoms even more beautifully in the audio version than on the page, and Lee has a great sense for the material, varying his tone from sonorous heights to sing-songy to wistful sighs. Whether quickening with young Morden's naïve lust for the mother in the tragic Grace family who he encounters at the beach, or growing heavy with the memory of his wife's helplessness at her cancer diagnosis, Lee convincingly inhabits the character. His Irish accent adds authenticity without distracting from the prose, though some listeners may find Banville's daunting vocabulary more of a challenge to keep up with on audio. The absence of chapter breaks and the minimal dialogue helps Lee's voice gather force as he reads, becoming a powerful wave that bears the listener along, a privileged vantage from which to witness the riveting spectacle of Morden baring his soul.
Copyright© American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 24 2010
Format: Paperback
The Irish writer, John Banville, has written a pensive story about a middle-age man, Max Morden, who desperately returns to a favourite childhood spot as a means of finding solace and making sense of his wife's Anna's premature death. Mired in grief, he reaches out to some relationships in his past that will help him make sense of his present loss. Much of the early part of the story focuses on his return to a boarding house on a popular stretch of beach where he once, as a young teen, formed an intimate but strange relationship with two young members of the Grace family who had been holidaying there. Max chums around with them and gradually enters their lives through a brief bu complicated friendship where the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, try to run his life by manipulating his emotions. While a young Max develops affections for Chloe, she proves flighty, mysterious and elusive as she flaunts her ties with her twin, Myles. As Banville explores this particular setting of Morden's past, other experiences pop up from his often stormy marriage to Anna that only tend to only reinforce his sense of loss and remorse. The reader learns of other memories that show this relationship to be anything but fulfilling. Morden is a prisoner to the tyranny of other people's desires to emotionally control him. A journey into the sojourns of his past, through both his immediate and distant memories, confirm that there are more questions than answers being raised in the process of discovery. As he can no longer control his fading past, he is left to be consumed by the very real existential grief of the present. He has even fallen out with his only daughter, Claire, as she struggles with her own growing sense of despair and uncertainty.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The Sea will either delight or aggravate you. Some may experience both reactions.

The delight will come from finding a surprising word choice or unexpected detail on almost every page, the unusual development of the plot and the rapid shifts between thought, memory, perception, desire, musing and reflection. For some, the fresh descriptions of male sexual awakening will also be sweet.

The aggravation will come from realizing that the story could have been told more directly. You will also feel yourself being manipulated quite often. The word choices could have been more direct. The surprises on each page become almost mechanical after awhile. Deal with the aggravation is my advice. Otherwise, you'll miss the chance to see how often you jump to unwarranted conclusions. Reading this novel is like holding up a mirror to see your mind's perceptions and prejudices.

You won't realize much of the book's power until you're done. If you are like me, you'll immediately want to read it again.

The story takes place while Max Morden recovers emotionally from his wife's untimely death from a wasting illness. Uncharacteristically, Morden avoids family and friends to be quite alone most of the day while staying in a run-down rooming house where he experienced many delights as a youngster. Being there brings up many memories of the Grace family . . . surely a metaphor for inspiration in this lover of Bonnard. You'll find yourself drawn into those long-ago memories as well as Morden's unhappy reaction to his wife's loss. But you'll also know that there's an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Gradually, all will become clear through the mental peregrinations of Morden.

I don't remember stream of consciousness done in sentences in quite as interesting a way as Mr.
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By A Customer on March 12 2006
Format: Hardcover
I just read this book for my book club and I was one of the only ones who enjoyed this book! Most of the people in my club found the book too difficult to understand with its stream of consciousness style and extended metaphor (of the sea). I, on the other hand, paid far less attention to the plot itself and more to the writing. The writing is undeniably gorgeous; Banville is a wonderful writer and probably (Never Let Me Go was my first choice) deserved The Booker. The plot was good but I found Banville's characters cold. In a book about grief and memory one would expect emotional and sympathetic characters; that isn't the case in this book. The main character is strange and unlikeable and so are the members of the Grace family. I wasn't emotionally connected to a single one of these characters and was therefore emotionally absent myself when the ending (and the tragedy therein) arrived.
I recommend Never Let Me Go if you want to read the competition (for The Booker). This book also contains unemotional characters but they are not incongruent in the story like the characters in The Sea.
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Format: Hardcover
The Sea is the only (as yet) book by Banville that I've read. Can't even remember where I picked up the recommendation, but this is a tremendous book. The cover describes Banville as today's Nabokov, but I heard definite echoes of Dickens, Joyce, and even Dylan Thomas.

Banville writes like Perlman plays the violin, except that, to reverse the simile, if Perlman played like Banville wrote, you would hear him play notes you've never heard before. Banville's prose is so good, and his love of English so obvious, that, perversely, one suspects that (like Conrad) it's not his first language. He's Irish, so maybe Gaelic came first? Anyway, you will encounter wonderful words, effortlessly used, that you've never seen before.

This isn't just a book; it's literature, and literature of the first rank. One for the ages, for sure.
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