Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Sea - John Banville

The Basics: The Sea, John Banville, 2005, 195 pages, hardcover, winner of the Man Booker prize for 2005.

How I found it: When I reviewed Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go I discovered that book was nominated for the 2005 Booker so I checked out the list of other nominees and decided to read the winner for that year, Banville's The Sea.

What's it about?: Max, a middle-aged Irish man, loses his wife to cancer and doesn't know what to do with his life. He heads back to a resort town where he spent an important childhood summer to try to figure it out, get away from his pain, and write an art book. The book is told primarily through Max's memories of his wife and of the events of that fateful summer. Max rarely exists in the present and it seems he prefers it that way.

Did I like it?: While this is a short novel, and a well-written one, for me it seemed to drag in places and I skimmed through some of Banville's prose. The story itself, as remembered by Max, is not that interesting (although there is a big revelation at the end of the book about why that summer was so important). I just didn't relate to Max, which is probably why I didn't love this book. I understood his pain, but couldn't relate to why he acted the way he did.

Will you like it?: This book is quite well-written and well executed. I had never read any Banville before, but he seems to be a talented writer. While I don't exactly recommend this book, I won't warn anyone away from it either. It is a good book, I just didn't really enjoy it - if that makes sense.

But don't take my word for it: Readers on liked it, the Sunday Times reviewer had a reaction similar to mine, but the reviewer from the Washington Post got sucked in by Banville's mastery of the English language.

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