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 The Sea by John Banville (05 Man Booker Prize Winner)

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Age : 51
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PostSubject: The Sea by John Banville (05 Man Booker Prize Winner)   Sat 17 Jan 2009, 9:21 pm

Well, since I had this one in the TBR pile and it comes highly recommended from my English friend Michele, I thought I'd overachieve a bit more. This is a small novel (195 pages) set in an Irish sea coast town. The protagonist returns after 50+ years to grieve after the recent death of his wife. Since travelling to Ireland fairly recently, I like to get my hands on good Irish fiction. So we will see how this one is. I've always been curious about this author.



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PostSubject: Review of The Sea by John Banville   Mon 19 Jan 2009, 10:53 pm

Review of The Sea by John Banville

It is very lost on me how this book won the 2005 Man Booker Prize (or scored #6 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list). It is an "okay" little book, easy to read, but with a horribly unlikeable protagonist. That guy, Max Mordon, is just so mean, drunken, negative and crabby. Banville writes beautifully though, he has a great style, quite the sardonic wit and uses interesting and unusual words. That said, he seems to wheedle out these startling nuances about what makes human beings act, feel and look their worst. He can sum up someone's faults in a slim paragraph that makes me hope this guy never describes me. This is an example ... a new character enters the book near the end and this is how she is described:

The space where she sat was thronged with smoky sunlight and at first I could hardly make her out, although in truth she is as unmissable as the late Queen of Tonga. She is an enormous person, of undeterminate age. She wore a sack-coloured tweed dress tightly belted in the middle, which made her look as if she had been pumped up to bursting at bosom and hips, and her short stout cork-coloured legs were stuck out in front of her like two gigantic bungs protruding from her nether regions. A tiny sweet face, delicate of feature and pinkly aglow, is set in the big pale pudding of her head, the fossil remains, marvellously preserved, of the girl that she once was, long ago. Her ash-and-silver hair was done in an old-fashioned style, parted down the centre and pulled back in an eponymous bun. She smiled at me and nodded a greeting, her powdered wattles joggling ... When she tottered to her feet the wicker chair cried out in excruciated relief. She really is of a prodigious bulk ...

So as you can see, Max is an angry guy who seems to have some problems with women. Anyway, the story is about Max (who is older, but we are never sure of his age) who goes to an Irish sea coast town to heal (?) from his wife's recent death from cancer. The town is where he spent many childhood Summers and the novel reflects on the relationships with the people he know during that time. It flip flops back to present and then the final months of his wife's life. It all sort of lazily connects at the end, but what is truly lost is any sympathy for his dear departed wife. After the book I was unsure whether he even liked her, let alone loved her. And one gets the impression he is mourning himself a whole lot more than he is mourning her, or her tragic end. So I guess it was kind of interesting in that respect ~ honest in a way that we do not read about much. Still, that doesn't make the book more likeable. The very last few pages are kind of cute with the daughter coming back to take him home (complete with fiance who Max hates; and house rules that prohibit alcohol). Because the author is so skilled, I give it 2.5 stars, but this is in no way an award winner.

2.5 Stars out of 5

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