Saturday, February 02, 2008


The Sea by John Banville

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"The Sea" is a short book (195 pages) and takes place mostly in a seaside resort in Ireland. The narrator, Max Morden, returns to the Cedars and reminisces about his childhood vacation there, his meeting with his wife and her death. I was very disappointed in this novel. Banville overuses highbrow words which I didn't even feel like looking up in the dictionary. They just didn't seem that appealing. He draws analogies constantly some of which I found to be dead on and others making no sense to me at all. Almost every description, analogy and character is negative, unpleasant or sad. "My life seemed to be passing before me, not in a flash as it is said to do for those about to drown, but in a sort of leisurely convulsion, emptying itself of its secrets and its quotidian mysteries in preparation for the moment when I must step into the black boat on the shadowed river with the coin of passage cold in my already coldening hand." Wonderful analogy this time, but how dark can you get? Even the descriptions of the Irish seaside were disparaging. While this was touted as a book about grief, mortality, death, childhood and memory, I found Banville's elegant and precise prose to be too exact, the book more about the words he wrote than about the feelings he was trying to convey. He jumps from memory to memory, from present to distant past to recent past in a way that took me most of the book to catch on to. In fairness, I am going to share a passage about a storm that I thought was very powerful: "I enjoyed it outrageously, sitting up in my ornate bed as on a catafalque, if that is the word I want, the room aflicker around me and the sky stamping up and down in a fury, breaking its bones. At last, I thought, at last the elements have a pitch of magnificence to match my inner turmoil! I felt transfigured, I felt like one of Wagner's demi-gods, aloft on clashes of celestial cymbals. In this mood of histrionic euphoria, fizzing with brandy-fumes and static, I considered my position in a new and crepitant light." For such a short book and a winner of the Man Booker Prize, it took almost a week to read because I really had to force myself to it. I acknowledge that I am not a fan of the dark, depressing and overly cerebral novel. Obviously others are and this may be the perfect book for them. However, I don't plan on reading any more books by this author.
Rating: 1.5
Posted by Framed at 1:15 AM

Booklogged said...
Beautiful passages, but I would hate to read a whole book like that. Very cerebral. I'm glad you shared the one about the storm because that's an awesome passage. It's refreshing to read a review and not feel compelled to add the book to my list. Thanks, Framed.
10/21/2007 5:14 PM
Stephanie said...
I can't agree with you more. I HATED this book!!

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