PICADOR £16.99 £15.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
The Sea, by John Banville
Swept away on the tide of memories
Sunday 04 September 2005
The Sea is a novel dominated by the ebb and flow of memory. It centres on the figure of Max Morden, a widower whose wife has recently died of cancer. Bereft and torn from the moorings that have anchored his adult life, Max, prompted by a dream, returns to the seaside village where he spent one formative childhood summer. He settles in a boarding house, the Cedars, that was rented by a family, the Graces, whom Max befriended when he was young, and it is the narrative of that fateful summer which pulls like an insistent undertow throughout this fluid and affecting work.
Banville demonstrates a masterful technical control of his material. The narrative moves in a stately, tidal motion across the past as Max loses himself in reveries. The Graces, he remembers, exercised a peculiar fascination on his childhood self. They are monied, sophisticated and distinctly his social superiors. Max deliberately ingratiates himself among them by befriending their two children, non-identical twins Chloe and the mute and somewhat spooky Myles. Though he first forms a crush on the mother, Max soon transfers his affections to Chloe - a girl a couple of years his senior and hovering on the verge of pubescence.
While the novel dwells meditatively on the childhood pursuits that dominated his summer, Max's memories of the Graces also act as a springboard for more wide-ranging recollections about the ups and downs of his married life, the doomed relationship of his parents, and the tortuous death of his wife, Anna. Yet it is not the events themselves which are particularly noteworthy but Banville's ability to tease out, in a prose that is never less than exquisitely wrought, the resonances in the commonplace which echo with amplified significance throughout an individual's life.
Max is a writer of sorts who is attempting (though failing) to write a book on the painter Bonnard. As the novel unfolds, it becomes apparent that language itself is not simply its medium but its theme. The Sea is a meditation on memory, identity and language, rich in literary allusion, brilliant in the subtlety of its detailed observation, wholly overpowering in its accumulated force. It confirms Banville's reputation as once of finest prose stylists working in English today and, in the sheer beauty of its achievement, is unlikely to be bettered by any other novel published this year.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Man to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia after ripping up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'