Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Sea by John Banville

Picture the following scene: You are having dinner with a brilliant, erudite and cosmopolitan person. Initially, your guest mesmerizes you with stories of travelling around the world and meeting famous people. However, as time passes by, the conversation begins to drag on, and what was once magical is now slightly annoying. By the time dessert arrives, you want dinner to end and your guest  to go on his way.

For me, reading John Banville's The Sea was like having dinner with the aforementioned fictitious guest. For many people this statement is likely outrageous, especially given that this novel won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Banville is without a doubt a magnificent writer, and to say otherwise is bound to create criticism. However, if I were to be completely honest, I must confess that this book slowly started to wear on me. It's true that in the opening sections I was captivated by the writing. However, with each passing page, I become increasingly (dare I say it?) bored. The intriguing ending saved the novel for me, but not enough to make me rave about this book. Yes, I could write numerous English PhD theses on the book's different themes, while making varied commentaries about art, death and longing. Yet, to be perfectly frank, I have to say that I found some of the commentary on this book to be a tad pretentious.

This story tells the tale of Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who returns to the seaside town where he spent his holidays as a child. Dealing with the recent death of his wife, he recalls his time with the Grace's, a wealthy family in which he experienced love and death for the first time. On the surface this is an interesting premise, and I really enjoyed parts of the book. Nevertheless, by roughly the middle part of the story, I couldn't help but want the novel to end. I am glad that I read this book, and I do plan to read other literary works by Banville. That being said, I did not fall in love with this story.

3 out of 5 stars