“The Sea” by John Banville

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
* * *


I just finished this book last night and must say I really enjoyed it.

I learned of this book through a list of “books you must read before you die” and then blindly selected it from the library simply through being part of that list. When I first started it, I thought it would be a chore to get through. And for the first hundred pages, it was. The book is written as the narrator–a recently widowed man who has returned to the site of his childhood holidays–thinks. But it is in this sea of commas and em-dashes that the brilliance of this book is found.

It truly is written as the narrator thinks and perfectly conveys the thought processes that we all go through when remembering the past. One story may digress into another, or be left out completely. The distant past becomes interrupted by a memory from the not-so-distant past, and then the present comes nagging into view.

This book makes you feel lonely and useless to time, just as the narrator feels. There is a great deal of description in every little thing–from the way someone sits, to someone’s smell, to the way one’s armpits look. But really: don’t we sometimes think of these small details and hold them in our memories? Senseless details they are not. They are keys to the narrator’s memories, no matter how foul they may seem to the reader.

If you are looking for a book with an action-packed plot, or even a book where something happens, this is not the book for you. But if you are seeking something that will make you think–make you stop and meditate about the past and age and time–this book is for you.


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