The Sea

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

The Sea

by John Banville

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | August 15, 2006 | Trade Paperback

3 out of 5 rating. 3 Reviews
Not yet rated | write a review
In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel - among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 208 pages, 3.13 × 2.03 × 0.22 in

Published: August 15, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400097029

ISBN - 13: 9781400097029

save
28%

In Stock Hurry, only 0 left! Not yet released

$13.64  ea

Online Price

$17.95 List Price

or, Used from $5.04

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

– More About This Product –

The Sea

by John Banville

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 208 pages, 3.13 × 2.03 × 0.22 in

Published: August 15, 2006

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400097029

ISBN - 13: 9781400097029

About the Book

Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman returns to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child--a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his life without his recently deceased wife. It is also a return to the place where he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time and his memories of the past.

Read from the Book

I They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. The rusted hulk of the freighter that had run aground at the far end of the bay longer ago than any of us could remember must have thought it was being granted a relaunch. I would not swim again, after that day. The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam. They looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds. The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline. No sail marred the high horizon. I would not swim, no, not ever again. Someone has just walked over my grave. Someone. The name of the house is the Cedars, as of old. A bristling clump of those trees, monkey-brown with a tarry reek, their trunks nightmarishly tangled, still grows at the left side, facing across an untidy lawn to the big curved window of what used to be the living room but which Miss Vavasour prefers to call, in landladyese, the lounge. The front door is at the opposite side, opening on to a square of oil-stained gravel behind the iron gate that is still painted green, though rust has reduced its struts to a tremulous filigree. I am amazed at how little has changed in the mor
read more read less

From the Publisher

In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel - among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.

About the Author

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.

Editorial Reviews

"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

Bookclub Guide

US

1. The Sea is made up of three temporal layers: the distant past of Max's childhood, the recent past of his wife's illness and death, and the present of his return to Ballyless. Instead of keeping these layers distinctly separated, Banville segues among them or splices them together, sometimes within a single sentence. Why might he have chosen to do this, and what methods does he use to keep the reader oriented in his novel's time scheme?

2. Morden frequently refers to the Graces as gods, and of course the original Graces were figures in classical mythology. What about these people makes them godlike? Does each of them possess some attribute that corresponds, for instance, to Zeus's thunderbolt or Athena's wisdom? What distinguishes the Graces from Max's own unhappily human family? Are they still godlike at the novel's end?

3. When Max first encounters the Graces, he hears from the upstairs of their house the sound of a girl laughing while being chased. What other scenes in the book feature chases, some playful, some not? Is Morden being chased? Or is he a pursuer? If so, who or what might he be pursuing?

4. Morden is disappointed, even "appalled" [p. 4], to find the Cedars physically unchanged from what it was when the Graces stayed there. Yet he is also disappointed that it contains no trace of its former occupants [p. 29]. What might explain his ambivalence? Has he come to Ballyless to relive his past or to be free of it? Given the shame and sadness that suffuses so much of his memory, how is one to interpret his sense of the past as a retreat [pp. 44-45]?

5. "How is it," Max wonders, "that in childhood everything new that caught my interest had an aura of the uncanny, since according to all the authorities the uncanny is not some new thing but a thing known returning in a different form, a revenant?" [p. 8]. What might account for this sense of déjà vu? What episodes in this novel seem to echo earlier ones, and are there moments when the past seems to echo the future, as if time were running backward? In this light, consider Max's realization that his childhood visions of the future had "an oddly antique cast" [p. 70], as if "what I foresaw as the future was in fact . . . a picture of what could only be an imagined past" [p. 71].

6. How does Banville depict the other characters in this novel? To what extent are they, as Max suggests, partial constructs, as Connie Grace was "at once a wraith of my imagination and a woman of unavoidable flesh and blood" [p. 65]? Does Max's voice, wry, self-reflexive, and resplendently vivid, give these characters an independent life or partially obscure them? Are there moments when they seem to peek out from beneath its blanket and show themselves to the reader?

7. Throughout the novel Max suffers from an overpowering, all-pervasive sense of guilt. Is this guilt justified? What are his crimes, or using another moral language, his sins? Has he managed to atone for any of his failures or redeem any of his spoiled relationships by the novel's end? Is such redemption possible in this novel's view of human nature?

8. On learning that she is fatally ill, both Max and Anna are overcome by something he recognizes as embarrassment, an embarrassment that extends even to the inanimate objects in their home. Why should death be embarrassing? Compare the grown Max's shame about death to his childhood feelings about sex, both his sexual fantasies about Connie Grace and their subsequent fulfillment with her daughter.

9. Significantly, Max's fantasies about Mrs. Grace reach a crescendo during an act of voyeurism. What role does watching play in Max's sense of others? Has observing people been his substitute for engaging with them? How does he feel about other people watching him? And what are we to make of the fact that Max is constantly watching himself-sometimes watching himself watching others, in an infinite regress of surveillance and alienation?

10. Max is a poor boy drawn to a succession of wealthy women, culminating in his very wealthy wife. Was his attraction to them really a screen for social climbing? In loving Connie and Chloe and Anna, was he betraying his origins? Are there moments in this novel when those origins reassert themselves?

11. Why might Max have chosen the painter Bonnard as the subject for a book? What episodes from the painter's life parallel his own or illuminate it metaphorically? Note the way the description of the Graces' picnic recalls Manet's Dejeuner sur l'Herbe. What other scenes in the novel allude to works of art or literature, and what is the effect?

12. The Sea has a triple climax that features two deaths and very nearly a third. In what ways are these deaths linked, and to what extent is Max responsible for them? Do you interpret his drunken night walk on the beach as an attempt at suicide? How does your perception of Max change in light of Miss Vavasour's climactic revelation about the events that precipitated Chloe's drowning?

13. Just as the critical trauma of Max's life grew out of a misapprehension, so the entire novel is shrouded in a haze of unreliable narrative. Max's memories are at once fanatically detailed and riddled with lapses. He freely admits that the people in his past are half real and half made up. "From earliest days I wanted to be someone else," he tells us [p. 160], and a chance remark of his mother's suggests that even his name may be false [p. 156]. Can we accept any part of his account as true? Are there moments in this novel in which reality asserts itself absolutely? What effect do these ambiguities have on your experience of The Sea?

Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart