The Sea by John Banville

About the book

When art historian Max Morden returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family had appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Mr and Mrs Grace, with their worldly ease and candour, were unlike any adults he had met before. But it was his contemporaries, the Grace twins Myles and Chloe, who most fascinated Max. He grew to know them intricately, even intimately, and what ensued would haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that was to follow.

Reviewed by St Ives Reading Group:

This book was good on description but poor on dialogue. Characterisation was detailed but the story line unsatisfactory. A pretentious use of unusual words but a good twist at the end. – this was a consensus among all readers present.

Star rating: **

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8 thoughts on “The Sea by John Banville”

  1. Review by BBC Reading Group:
    Some aspects were enjoyed like the descriptions and word usage, however, generally it was seen as introspective, self indulgent and dull.
    Star rating: **

  2. Review by Elderberries WI Lee on Solent Reading Group:
    No-one liked this book. We felt the writer was better at words of description of views, colours and the weather than a story.
    Star rating: *

  3. Review by Bookends. Hayling Island Reading Group:
    Generally the group found this book rather dull and inconsequential. Although the use of language was interesting (i.e. very wordy) the story of a selfish man’s reviewal of his life was not found to be as interesting as we had hoped.
    Rating: 2 Stars

  4. Review by King’s Somborne Reading Group:
    An anapatropaic view of life with a leporine regard for his departed wife. The central character like a lummox stumbles into the flocculent hush of his childhood holiday memories, The past beats in us like a second heart.
    Rating: 3 Stars

  5. Review by Palestine Book Club
    Most of the group did not enjoy or even finish this book. comments included “sytle over substance” and “self indulgent” although all agreed that the vocabulary was superb. One person really enjoyed the style of writing and the subjects explored.
    Rating : * (but three stars for description and vocabulary)

  6. Review by St Mary’s Rc Parish Reading Group
    We all loved the language but found Max’s voice lacked joy – he sees everything through jaundiced eyes and although he is speaking of death throughout, his remembered life is tainted by depression. Our group is 60+ and we need more joy in our lives!
    Rating: ***

  7. Review by Enjoying Books Reading Group
    This book inspired much discussion in our group – was it self indulgent overblown prose or brilliant literature? Difficult themes of death and its consequences.
    Rating: ***

  8. Review by Lily Book Group
    Generally the group found this quite challenging in terms of language. Several found it too introspective and the characters difficult to warm to; a couple of us really appreciated the poetry in much of the description and we liked the art history strand that runs through it. We discussed comparions to “The Go-between” by L P Hartley and “A Single man” by Christopher Isherwood.
    Star rating: ***

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