John Banville THE SEA

2005, 263 p

This won the Booker Prize, and it’s very much like his other books.  There’s his care, deftness and sophistication of language and vocabulary; a deluded and unreliable narrator; and allusions to an artistic and professional life in which the main character immerses and obscures himself.

Banville’s handling of three timelines is masterful.  A widowed art historian returns to a childhood holiday spot, where he reflects on his wife’s recent death from cancer and recalls his infatuation with the mother of a childhood friend in a golden summer of his early adolescence.  In this regard, the book reminded me of Ian McEwan’s  Atonement and L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between. Banville slips effortlessly between these three storylines and there’s a dishonesty about his narrator’s telling in of all of them, through a mixture of naiveté, pomposity and emotional blindness.  Banville writes so well- his descriptions are often so beautiful and apt that you stop to savour them.  The ending was, perhaps, a bit of an anticlimax but it’s the language and sheer virtuosity of the author’s writing that is the real strength of this book.

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