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The Sea (2005)

by John Banville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,7441481,665 (3.48)1 / 405
Max Morden visits the seaside town where he spent his summers as a child after the death of his wife. There he remembers the Graces, the family that introduced him to a world of feeling he'd never experienced before. Interwoven with this story are Morden's memories of his wife, Anna--of their life together, of her death.… (more)
  1. 84
    On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (kiwiflowa, Smiler69)
    kiwiflowa: same introspective feel and prose etc
    Smiler69: Both are stories about people dealing with difficult feelings and situations, both beautifully told in gorgeous prose.
  2. 20
    Shroud by John Banville (ghefferon)
  3. 10
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Men looking back on their youth, similar issues with memories. Both beautiful reads.
  4. 21
    Eclipse by John Banville (bergs47)
  5. 00
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (sek_smith)
  6. 22
    Collected Stories by William Trevor (chrisharpe)
  7. 11
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (WSB7)
    WSB7: To me Banville's book deals with similar materials so much more effectively than James.
  8. 01
    Eustace and Hilda: A Trilogy by L. P. Hartley (chrisharpe)

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English (138)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (148)
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
This novel was a puzzle of contradictions. Max Morden is a recent widower working through his relationship with his wife, Anna, and with his daughter, Claire, while also trying to understand some events from his childhood. Some readers appeared to find this story too bleak; I didn’t. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and their story. In fact, that was one of the problems for me. There was too little of the story and too much description for me. I found myself wading through description to get on with the story, and I typically enjoy good description. Max Morden was a man very confused about love. His relationship with his wife was not perfect, nor was it broken. Max loves his daughter, but doesn’t know how to express his love for her. And then there was Chloe.

I like how the story moves back and forth through time and events, relatively easily, representing for me Max’s shifting thoughts and attention. I enjoyed the elegance of Banville’s writing style, but also found it choppy and thus never really found the rhythm in the writing that is true enjoyment for me. Ultimately, I was as mixed up about my response to The Sea as Max Morden was about love. This was my first by Banville, and I have read that some have found other efforts of his more enjoyable, so I am motivated to try another at some point. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
This is one of the most beautifully elegiac novels I’ve ever read. It speaks of the indelible effects of love and loss in youth, and the power and limits memory. The sentences are so beautiful, evocative, and meaningful. Looking forward to his other works. ( )
  Misprint | Aug 31, 2020 |
A story written with a grandiose flare about a protagonist who returns to a seaside town that holds childhood memories in grief at the loss of his wife. The writing is beautifully constructed, visually dripping, but the story fails to hold up to the prose. Enjoyable, but hard to discern what message to take from the book. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
  IlsaK | Jul 31, 2020 |
The Sea by John Banville is a novel about love and loss, as the main character, Max Morden tries to come to terms with his wife’s death from cancer by retreating into his memories of his past, in particular, his childhood vacations at the seaside. Taking this a step further, he returns to the seaside boarding house where an event that affected him greatly took place. The reader does not discover what this event was until near the end of the book.

There isn’t much of a story to this novel, rather it appears to be a series of reflections on mortality, grief, death and childhood memory. The author evokes a quiet, haunting atmosphere in which to set his beautiful writing. He also cleverly uses the power of scent as a trigger to many of the character’s memories. The flawed main character is not particularly likeable as he constantly questions his motives, finds solace in a bottle, and seems to revel in his melancholy and regret. The Sea is not a story to be read for entertainment but rather one to admire for it’s luminous wording and to reflect upon the complex patterns that Banville presents with these words. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 20, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 138 (next | show all)
"It won last year's Booker prize, so does not exactly need the oxygen of publicity: but this almost airless, deliberately stifled book is one of the more interesting titles that the prize has been conferred upon recently."
"His descriptive passages are dense and almost numbingly gorgeous."
"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."
added by bookfitz | editThe Independent, John Tague (Sep 3, 2005)
"And Banville's prose is sublime. Several times on every page the reader is arrested by a line or sentence that demands to be read again."
added by bookfitz | editThe Telegraph, Lewis Jones (Jun 5, 2005)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Banville, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Castanyo, EduardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterre, Jan Pieter van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Colm, Douglas, Ellen, Alice
First words
They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Max Morden visits the seaside town where he spent his summers as a child after the death of his wife. There he remembers the Graces, the family that introduced him to a world of feeling he'd never experienced before. Interwoven with this story are Morden's memories of his wife, Anna--of their life together, of her death.

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Book description
The narrator is Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who, soon after his wife's death, has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidaysd as a child-a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his life without her, But it is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled vacationing family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. The seductive mother; the imperious father; the twins-Chloe, fiery and forthright,m and Myles, silent and expressionless-in whose mysterious connection Max became profoundly entangled, each of them a part of the 'barely bearable raw immediacy" of his childhood memories. Interwoven with this story are Morden's memories of his wife, Anna-of their life together, of her death- and the moments, both significant and mundane, that make up his life now: his relationship with his grown daughter, Claire, desperate to pull him from his grief; amd with the other boarders at the house where he is staying, where the past beats inside him "like a second heart." What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of the elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel-among the finest we have had from this extraordinary writer. 210
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