Oh, you sad, melancholic, living-in-the-past islanders, how much do I love you!
Mr. Banville won the 2005 Booker prize, beating, among others, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go to it. And since I’ve loved Never let me go so much, I had to know what this book was all about. And I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the writing, I loved the story and I loved the feeling it gave me…a mix between nostalgia and a warm cosy blanket in a cold autumn night. I know I sound crazy, but “The Sea” was so beautiful, atmospheric and warm because it felt so passé and so old fashioned.
Max’s wife has died, after a grueling year when he saw her pas bit by bit, his relationship with his only daughter is more complicated than he’s wish it to be, and he returns to the village by the sea he used to visit as a child, searching for the ghosts of his past. That’s it – the story line is not new in any way, the puzzle unravels quietly but, just when you thought you’ve figured it all out, it turns around and surprises you. Or maybe just me, maybe I was too engulfed in the whole atmosphere thing that I missed important clues – but I did not see the Miss Vavasour revelation coming. Sure, now I’ve written it here and spoilt it for everyone – but only because this really isn’t the point of the book 😉
The Guardian has such a good review , that I suddenly feel very self conscious 😀 Something they only mention in passing though, but which was on my mind a bit more is the parallel between Max Morden and the painter Pierre Bonnard. The internets aren’t as generous as one might expect on the subject of Bonnard’s personal life (can’t believe I’m saying that 😛 ) but Max, who claims to be writing a biography of his, is immersed in the similarities between their lives – or, better, their fates. Bonnard’s wife (and model) also died before him, I think also as a result of a disease but he was a widower for only a short while. His mentioning of Bonnard is probably a way of dealing with grief, a way of connecting with someone who lived through the same ordeal – or a way to lose yourself in the sea of someone else’s life.
Max is consumed by his past, by how little he understood it and how little he understood the women in it – Rose, Chloe, his mother, Anna and his ways out are very…liquid – the drink, the sea, until a final comforting, helping hand comes from the unlikeliest place.
I don’t have the book with me – but even if I did, I wouldn’t know which quotes to choose. It’s definitely worth reading cover to cover.