Friday, July 04, 2008

The Sea by John Banville

For many years, I have been buying Man Booker Prize-winning novels. This recently added title to the collection was my first by Banville, and I knew almost nothing about him. I have to say I was bowled over by this book.

The Sea is a psychological excursion through memory, first love, loss, aging, and trying not to forget. Banville has written a masterful novel, with elegant and lyrical language so rich it takes the breath away. Reading this novel will introduce at least a dozen new vocabulary words. Keep a dictionary handy!

The narrator, Max, has lost his wife, and he returns to the scene of his childhood summers to recapture his youth, perhaps even to try and start his life over again. The prose ebbs and flows like the sea – the ocean is everywhere and in every sentence. The salt air wafts off the page; the sun and sand are all around the reader -- the writing is that vivid.

The psychological insights are, at times profound, and at other times mistaken, but they are all human. Some surprises at the end also make the reader sprint to the end of the story as if trying to escape the pounding surf.

I have already bought four more titles by Banville, and I hope they are even close to this novel. Five stars, without any reservation at all.

--Chiron, 7/4/08

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