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****WINNER OF THE 2005 MAN BOOKER PRIZE****
Max is a middle-aged Englishman, a writer and self-described dilettante who has been supported by his wife's money. Now, after his wife's recent death, Max has gone back to the seaside town where he lived as a child—a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his new life without her, and a return to the place where he encountered the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time.
In a narrative that moves seamlessly back and forth in time, Max relives the childhood summer he met the Graces, a well-heeled vacationing family who took him in and unwittingly introduced him to a world of feeling he'd never experienced before. The seductive mother, the imperious father, the twins Chloe and Myles—in whose mysterious connection Max became profoundly entangled—each of them played a part in what Max still remembers as the “barely bearable raw immediacy of childhood.”
Interwoven with this story are his memories of his past with his wife—and of her long decline into illness—and with moments, both significant and mundane, of his present life: with his grown daughter Claire who wants to pull him from his grief, and with the other boarders at the house where he is staying and where the past beats inside him "like a second heart." What he comes to understand about that past and the way it has shaped his state of heart and mind now is at the center of this emotionally powerful tale.
“In The Sea Banville has written an utterly absorbing novel about the strange workings of grief . . . No one since Proust has been better able to recover the charged and dreamy atmospheres of what seems to be childhood.” —London Review of Books
“With his fastidious wit and exquisite style, John Banville is the heir to Nabokov . . . The Sea [is] his best novel so far . . . 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 . . . It has been said of the Irish by some English person (probably one invented by an Irishman) that we gave them a language and they taught us how to use it. This was true of Sheridan, Wilde, Shaw, Joyce and Beckett, and it is true, now, of Banville.” —The Sunday Telegraph
“[Banville] is prodigiously gifted. He cannot write an unpolished phrase, so we read him slowly, relishing the stream of pleasures he affords. Everything in Banville’s books is alive . . . . He is a writer’s writer [who] can conjure with the poetry of people and places.” —The Independent
“A brilliant, sensuous, discombobulating novel.” —The Spectator
“Banville writes novels of complex patterning, with grace, precision and timing, and there are wonderfully digressive meditations.” —The Guardian
“This is a novel in which all Banville’s remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, disturbing, beautiful, intelligent, and in the end, surprisingly, offering consolation.” —The Scotsman
“John Banville’s latest novel is simultaneously about growing up and growing old, [about] rites of passage: coming-of-age and coming of old age; awakening and dying . . . Banville has a talent for sensuous phrasing, and pungent observation of human frailty.” —The Sunday Times
“Magnificent . . . As in all Banville novels, things are not what they seem. [The narrator’s] cruelly capricious complicity in the sad history that unfolds, the facts kept hidden from the reader until the shocking denouement, brilliantly dramatize the unpredictability of life and incomprehensibility of death . . . This novel sweeps the reader into the inexorable waxing and waning of life.” —Publishers Weekly
“Banville’s achievement seems remarkable to me . . . The power and strangeness and piercing beauty of [the Sea’s] fragments are a wonder.”—John Crowley, Washington Post Book World
“An utterly contemporary novel that nonetheless could only have come from a mind steeped in the history of the novel and deeply reflective about what makes fiction still worthwhile, [its] recurrent triumph is to have found words for experiences that, however commonplace, one would have thought beyond the reach of language . . . A great novelist can turn even a critic—nay, even an art historian—into a compelling protagonist. Not the least proof that John Banville deserves his Booker Prize may be that he has produced, against all odds, an art critic with the bruised heart of a boy.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The Sea is a piece of violent poetry--an autumnal, elegiac novel . . . Treacherously smart, and haunting, its story of a ravaged self in search of a reason to go on is cloaked in wave after wave of magnificent but hardly consoling prose.” —Boston Sunday Globe
“For readers who take books and literature seriously, The Sea is a must-have. One periodically rereads a sentence just to marvel at its beauty, originality and elegance . . . The Sea offers an extraordinary meditation on mortality, grief, death, childhood and memory. It’s not a comfortable book, but it is undeniably brilliant.” —USA Today
“John Banville has a reputation as a brilliant stylist—people like to use the word “Nabokovian” in reference to his precisely worded books. His 14th novel, The Sea, has so many beautifully constructed sentences that every few pages something cries out to be underlined.” —The Christian Science Monitor