Incandescent prose. Beautifully textured characterisation. Transparent narratives. The adjectives to describe the writing of John Banville are all affirmative, and The Sea
is a ringing affirmation of all his best qualities. His publishers are claiming that this novel by the Booker-shortlisted author is his finest yet, and while that claim may have an element of hyperbole, there is no denying that this perfectly balanced book is among the writers most accomplished work.
Max Morden has reached a crossroads in his life, and is trying hard to deal with several disturbing things. A recent loss is still taking its toll on him, and a trauma in his past is similarly proving hard to deal with. He decides that he will return to a town on the coast at which he spent a memorable holiday when a boy. His memory of that time devolves on the charismatic Grace family, particularly the seductive twins Myles and Chloe. In a very short time, Max found himself drawn into a strange relationship with them, and pursuant events left their mark on him for the rest of his life. But will he be able to exorcise those memories of the past?
The fashion in which John Banville draws the reader into this hypnotic and disturbing world is non pareil, and the very complex relationships between his brilliantly delineated cast of characters are orchestrated with a masters skill. As in such books as Shroud and The Book of Evidence, the author eschews the obvious at all times, and the narrative is delivered with subtlety and understatement. The genuine moments of drama, when they do occur, are commensurately more powerful. --Barry Forshaw
From Publishers Weekly
Lee's thrillingly resonant baritone makes Banville's poetic evocation of the brooding Max Morden even more absorbing. As the story oscillates between two pivotal times in Morden's lifethe strange events of a boyhood summer by the sea in Ireland, and the illness and death of his wife half a century laterBanville makes Morden's world fully rounded with endlessly intricate thoughts and perceptions. The lyrical writing, full of half-rhymes and alliteration, blossoms even more beautifully in the audio version than on the page, and Lee has a great sense for the material, varying his tone from sonorous heights to sing-songy to wistful sighs. Whether quickening with young Morden's naïve lust for the mother in the tragic Grace family who he encounters at the beach, or growing heavy with the memory of his wife's helplessness at her cancer diagnosis, Lee convincingly inhabits the character. His Irish accent adds authenticity without distracting from the prose, though some listeners may find Banville's daunting vocabulary more of a challenge to keep up with on audio. The absence of chapter breaks and the minimal dialogue helps Lee's voice gather force as he reads, becoming a powerful wave that bears the listener along, a privileged vantage from which to witness the riveting spectacle of Morden baring his soul. Copyright© American Library Association. All rights reserved