The Sea by John Banville: A Book Review

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Enjoying the book with a cup of coffee

The last time that I had the  chance to  catch a glimpse of a sea was when I went back to my birth place last month . I took advantage of my one-week leave of absence of which my boss had approved despite the fact that I still had some students I had to attend to. The sea is located in northern Luzon, part of the Babuyan Channel. It is almost   close to the western part of the North Pacific Ocean because its waves are  terribly huge and fast , (perfect for surfing freaks).  Its vast  stretch of  blackish sand as what a friend of mine described is as powdery as the white sand of Boracay beach, one of the best beaches in the world according to a travel magazine.

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Our early arrival at the beach

The public beach  my families , friends, and I visited was not usually crowded with tourists. So, I enjoyed the place  because we could make the most of it without too much social exposure as if we were the only ones cast away in that deserted island.

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My cousins waiting for the huge  waves to be dashed against.(laughs)

 I liked the sea a whole a lot because I enjoyed playing with the high waves although I did not know how to swim. I basked in the quite scorching sun while listening to the  splash of the waves ebbing  and watching my little cousins playing in the water and in the dirt, trying to build a castle or bury  themselves.  When we left the place – in fact, I did not want yet-  I promised myself that I would return  given the fact that it may not be the prettiest beach I have ever been to. It is not about the landscape beauty but the spirit of my childhood memories I had left there before my family and I decided to move to Manila when I was still very young.

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Cottages made of bamboo woods and straw of dried pawid, special leaves which are used for roofs in our hometown . We were lucky that there were not even a few tourists at that time. 🙂

Reading The Sea novel is like looking back on your  past life in a sense that you don’t want to reminisce about it or you pine for it.  You cannot move on in your life because of the bitter memories you have not been able to get over yet. So you feel like your present life is worthless and empty   because that past is connected to how you are going to face the life ahead of you. Nevertheless, you are driven to lead the life you have chosen because of the nostalgic memories you wish you could experience again. So, reading   it is so emotionally “  stuffed-up” that I  was at loss for how I could  let out a scream ,that all I wanted was to finish it and MOVE ON because THIS IS LIFE!

To  break through into his own masterpiece, John Banville  came up with  a novel containing jumbled themes like  a combination of  the feelings that  took place in different time and space . One is in the past which could be an ambivalence of sweet-bitter memories while the other one is in the present.

The story has three settings: Max’s, the main character,  childhood memories of the Graces—a wealthy middle-class family living in a rented cottage home, the “Cedars”—during the summer holidays; the months leading up to the death of his wife, Anna; and his present stay at the Cedars cottage home in Ballyless—where he has retreated since Anna’s death.(Source: Wiki)

Obviously, John Banville has  proved his exceptional writing skills. He experimented on the rhetorical devices he thought would work. Yes, it had a significant impact upon  me. I was carried by   his literary “tricks”; I was bothered by the characters “neurotic needs”,  but as usual what matters to me   now is what is new to the story, probably one that is as “loose” as  light books.  In fact, I   learned that it became controversial because   it was not even praised a lot upon winning the Booker Prize in 2005. It was even described by Boyd Tonkin as “possibly the most perverse decision in the history of the award”.( Source:Wiki) In the end, others supported Banville’s statement that:

“Whether The Sea is a successful work of art is not for me to say, but a work of art is what I set out to make. The kind of novels that   I write very rarely win the Man Booker Prize, which in general promotes good, middlebrow fiction.”

Yes, Mr. Banville. I agree.You deserved it.

P.S.

John Banville and Kazuo Ishiguro must be  frenemies. In 1989, his novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize but lost to The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Again, Ishiguro was among the shortlisted in 2005 for his novel Never Let Me Go, but at this time, Banville won for his The Sea.

Now I wonder   whether  Never Let Me Go can be paralleled to the work of art  Banville bragged about.Let me see. 🙂

Rating: 3/5 stars ( I liked it.)

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