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The Sea | [John Banville]

The Sea

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 holidays 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.
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Publisher's Summary

The author of The Untouchable now gives us a luminous novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory.

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 holidays 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, 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; and 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 this elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel, among the finest we have had from this extraordinary writer.

©2005 John Banville; (P)2006 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Booker Prize Winner, Fiction, 2006

"Brilliant." (Booklist)
"Magnificent." (Publishers Weekly)
"Captivating." (Bookmarks Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (169 )
5 star
 (40)
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Overall
3.3 (74 )
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1 star
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Story
3.8 (73 )
5 star
 (27)
4 star
 (16)
3 star
 (20)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Karen Vancouver, BC, Canada 07-20-07
    Karen Vancouver, BC, Canada 07-20-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    81
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    "OVERWHELMINGLY FINE"

    The book itself deserves the Booker prize it received and anything else possible in the way of awards. The contrast between the deeply sad story and the intensely gorgeous language evokes that paradox of despair expressed in beauty. I heard about the book in a round-about way and at first took it for a far older work, the author's willingness to lavish language, description, simile, so fooled me.
    What makes THIS version so outstanding, however, is the reading by John Lee. His voice, phrasing, and emphasis are so perfect, his timing especially so apt, that I have trouble imagining the book without it.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dianamoore 09-04-06
    dianamoore 09-04-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "the sea"

    I've been inside the heads of alot of old men lately; Mr Sammler's Planet,Gilead,The History of Love. I thought it was as good as these other novels. Without much real action or suspense, I was glad to journey with this old man to the end.
    It was so beautifully written, insightful, humorous at times and just so human.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lydia Stouffville, Ontario, Canada 02-22-11
    Lydia Stouffville, Ontario, Canada 02-22-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "Dark, depressing, realistic but so poetic!"

    Having a love of Ireland lead me to listen to this book, one of my first audible downloads. While this book has to be described as dark and somewhat depressing, the upside is that the writing is the work of an absolute poet and perfectionist of the English language. Sublime! Regarding the narrator, he is superb. He sounds as if he truly loves the book and each and every character.

    I felt tentative about this book at first; the language complex, the story dark. But I encourage readers to stick with it because the past and present are subtely inter-woven, the characters mysterious and interesting, and every question falls neatly into place at the end without the need for any purfunctory happy endings or elevation of character. The story is essentially about life and death and the emotions surrounding them, told by a "man"!

    So...if you are interested in literature but written recently, give this awesome book a read. I was very impressed!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Essendon, Australia 11-03-10
    David Essendon, Australia 11-03-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Let it flow over you"

    I had not heard of Banville before this. What is it about the Irish? The command of the language, the humour, pathos, gentility, insight was astounding. At the end I felt I had lost a friend! Beautifully read, this was a true pleasure. It was a gentle journey that could have gone on and on! I recommend this anyone with an interest in the human condition!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony United States 02-21-13
    Anthony United States 02-21-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A muddy stream.. of consciousness"

    OK first John Lee can read a phone book and it would be worth listeng to. This tale is about a person who spends time at THE SEASHORE, not at sea. He has a troubled tragic life and time and remembers it all with you as he writes this. He does not however remember it in any logical form but rather changes time and characters extensively. This left me as the reader lost to figure out what was what and when it all happened. This detracted from whatever story he was trying to tell. In movie form you might have visual cues as to where the pieces of his life fit together but I didn't like it here. Now you may say that I have no appreciation for his artfull stream of consciousness and rich descriptive language. The former no the latter yes.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Anacortes, WA, United States 02-24-10
    Catherine Anacortes, WA, United States 02-24-10
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    "Listening to this leaves a bad taste in my mouth"

    Being a national best seller is nothing to sneeze at, and winning a Man Booker prize is a fairly substantial feat. With both these things in mind I purchased "The Sea". After the purchase, I still am of the opinion that the book has very noteworthy accomplishments, particularly so considering the fact that this book is really just so BAD. I could never find the motivation to care about what the main character experienced, expressed, or suffered; my only concern was that remaining in the company of this intolerable piece of work was causing more suffering on MY part. As far as the audio experience, let me estalish that anyone using this website knows the value of the audio media. "The Sea", then, stands as an excellent example it's failure. (Can I get an "OMG"?) I appreciate the attempt at colloquialisms and accents on the part of the narrator, but I heard enough "pitrs" and "figrs" to call a speech therapist. My advise is to pass this one by. Ignore the fancy packaging. You can't judge this book by its cover.

    5 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristin Surfside, CA, United States 04-19-09
    Kristin Surfside, CA, United States 04-19-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book, horrible narration"

    I loved this book, but found the audio version difficult to listen to. The narrator had an overbearing style that interferred with the flow of the beautifully crafted sentences. He seemed to think that his own performance was more important to the text.

    4 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhonda Morrison Worcester, MA 07-30-12
    Rhonda Morrison Worcester, MA 07-30-12 Member Since 2012

    Film Lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I was bored"
    What did you like best about The Sea? What did you like least?

    The book has beautiful writing, but the story, for me, was just dull. The main character just didn't interest me.


    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cleo Dee 12-26-08
    Cleo Dee 12-26-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
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    "The Sea - an Unabridged Yawn"

    This book was slow and boring. I do not recommend it while driving -- the reader will definitely put you to sleep.

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Hilt Port Angeles, WA 05-12-07
    S. Hilt Port Angeles, WA 05-12-07 Member Since 2006

    Freshwater

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Difficult to follow"

    Maybe it's just me, as I had read such positive reviews about this book. But I have had to restart this audio book countless times, as I found the story line difficult to follow.. At times you are not immediately aware that the author had jumped back several decades to the subject's childhood, or to his marriage or to the present day. It was well read however, enjoyed the narrator's Irish accent.

    3 of 11 people found this review helpful
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