Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Sea by John Banville

This will be two reviews in one.
First review (kinda short) - this is a beautifully written story.  Read it.
Second review (kinda long)- the estate of Raymond Chandler, who wrote one of the best detective series ever using the character of Phillip Marlow ("Farewell, My Lovely", "The Big Sleep", "The Lady in the Lake", etc.) just commissioned John Banville to write a new Phillip Marlow story.  He was selected because he is supposed to be an excellent writer and has his own series of crime novels.  I'm always on the lookout for a new crime author (most of them aren't that good), so I thought I'd give him a try. 

"The Sea" is not a crime novel but a major award winner so I figured the quality of his writing would show through, and does it ever!  The first paragraph is one of the best ones I've ever read and by the second page I'd even remembered that I read the book before many years ago.  Go figure.  It was illuminating in more ways than one, because I think I had a different impression of the book the first time around.  Then, I thought it was a good story but was a little irritated by some of the vocabulary, which seemed unnecessarily rich unless your PhD program was in English literature.  Second time around, I was more relaxed reading it and savored each paragraph, even though it still didn't take that long to read the book.  I also looked up the British English words I didn't know and it turns out he used exactly the right word each time.  It's a fairly simple story of a man who's wife dies and the man tries to cope.  He doesn't do it very well and uses a lot of thinking about the past to avoid the present and actually moves to a cottage where he met his first boyhood love on the seashore.  In short, this is a story of loss and memory.  Sounds like a downer, but it's not.  I'd recommend it for each reader in our family but think Jackie would like it best, just because she's already a better reader than me and would appreciate the quality.  The rest of our bloggers need to carve out the right time when you can just sit back for at least a relaxed half hour to get started. 

1 comment:

Becky said...

I definitely think that this is one I could add to the list for Christmas reading when I have time to just sit for hours and read without interruption. Thanks for the post!!!