John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. The author of thirteen previous novels, he has been the recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, and a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction. He lives in Dublin.
Banville's magnificent new novel, which won this year's Man Booker Prize and is being rushed into print by Knopf, presents a man mourning his wife's recent death-and his blighted life. "The past beats inside me like a second heart," observes Max Morden early on, and his return to the seaside resort where he lost his innocence gradually yields the objects of his nostalgia. Max's thoughts glide swiftly between the events of his wife's final illness and the formative summer, 50 years past, when the Grace family-father, mother and twins Chloe and Myles-lived in a villa in the seaside town where Max and his quarreling parents rented a dismal "chalet." Banville seamlessly juxtaposes Max's youth and age, and each scene is rendered with the intense visual acuity of a photograph ("the mud shone blue as a new bruise"). As in all Banville novels, things are not what they seem. Max's cruelly capricious complicity in the sad history that unfolds, and the facts kept hidden from the reader until the shocking denouement, brilliantly dramatize the unpredictability of life and the incomprehensibility of death. Like the strange high tide that figures into Max's visions and remembrances, this novel sweeps the reader into the inexorable waxing and waning of life. (Nov. 8) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"I have carried the memory of that moment through a whole half century, as if it were the emblem of something final, precious and irretrievable," says the narrator of Banville's Booker Prize-winning novel of a relatively trivial moment. But when he recalls the mother and daughter whom he first loved as a barely pubescent child-whose presence pulled him out of the shadow of his paltry self-he observes, "The two figures in the scene, I mean Chloe and her mother, are all my own work." Memory, then, is the subject of this brief but magisterial work, a condensed teardrop of a novel that captures perfectly the essence of irretrievable longing. After the death of his wife, Max has retreated to the seashore where he spent his childhood summers, staying at an inn that was once the home of a magnificent, careless family called the Graces. It's as if reawakening the pain of his first, terrible loss-that high-strung and volatile Chloe-will ease his more recent loss. The novel is written in a complex, luminous prose that might strike some as occasionally overblown, and Chloe's final act didn't entirely persuade this reviewer. The result? A breathtaking but sometimes frustrating novel. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Remarkable. . . . The power and strangeness and piercing beauty of [The Sea is] a wonder." - The Washington Post Book World"With his fastidious wit and exquisite style, John Banville is the heir to Nabokov. . . . The Sea [is] his best novel so far."-The Sunday Telegraph"The Sea offers an extraordinary meditation on mortality, grief, death, childhood and memory. . . . Undeniably brilliant." -USA Today"A gem. . . . [The sea]is a presence on every page, its ceaseless undulations echoing constantly in the cadences of the prose. This novel shouldn't simply be read. It needs to be heard, for its sound is intoxicating. . . . A winning work of art." -The Philadelphia Inquirer