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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Sea (2005) by John Banville



Book Review
The Sea (2005)
by John Banville

  A plot description, which I have cribbed from the post-Booker prize win London Guardian review below, does not do The Sea justice:

The story, such as it is, is narrated by one Max Morden (not quite, we are told quite late on, the name he was christened with), a widowed art historian, who is returning to a seaside boarding-house he once knew as a child on the cusp of adolescence. He has arrived there in order to deal with, in some roundabout way, the death of his wife from cancer. But the reason he lodges at Miss Vavasour's comically moribund guest-house is also because, when he was young, Something Happened there, and the novel only reveals what that was at the end.  - London Guardian 2006
  It's not even entirely clear that "Something Happened" there until the last 10 or 20 pages.  For example, myself, not having read any summaries, was legitimately surprised at the revelation.  That The Sea won the Booker Prize was itself- beating Zadie Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro- surprising.   I think you can fairly ascribe the success of The Sea to Banville's ability to evoke the sparse prose of Samuel Beckett while developing a conventional narrative with a "twist" type ending.   That is a winning formula, evidently.  

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