The Sea – John Banville


The Sea image

Published 2005 by Picador


I have very mixed feelings about ‘The Sea’ but, overall, it is hard to deny that John Banville has set the English language on fire with his truly bespoke use of words.

Max the narrator is in the throes of losing his wife and fluidly takes the reader through this ordeal, past it, and into the summer holidays of his childhood by the sea (a noticeable ebb and flow of storytelling).

Initially, it seems that the recollection of his meeting of the Grace family on one particular holiday is no more than a demonstration of the nature of memory during a time of grief; revisiting the first feelings of love – watching it grow, change direction.

But it is more than that. It is as if his wife’s death is a reminder of an event that he has carried with him all his life – waiting for a catalyst to force expression. ‘The Sea’ is a tribute to the fates of its characters, forcing life, love, grief, and death into stark relief.


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