The author of The Untouchable (“contemporary fiction gets no better than this”—Patrick McGrath, The New York Times Book Review) now gives us a luminous novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory. The narrator is Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who, soon after his wife’s death, has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child—a retreat from the grief, anger, and numbness of his life without her. But it is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled vacationing family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. The seductive mother; the imperious father; the twins—Chloe, fiery and forthright, and Myles, silent and expressionless—in whose mysterious connection Max became profoundly entangled, each of them a part of the “barely bearable raw immediacy” of his childhood memories. Interwoven with this story are Morden’s memories of his wife, Anna—of their life together, of her death—and the moments, both significant and mundane, that make up his life now: his relationship with his grown daughter, Claire, desperate to pull him from his grief; and with the other boarders at the house where he is staying, where the past beats inside him “like a second heart.” What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel—among the finest we have had from this extraordinary writer. From the Hardcover edition.
eMusic Review 0
An elegant, empathetic exploration of the purity of youth and the wisdom of age.
Max Morden charts time by the deterioration of his body and the degree to which he feels like a senior citizen when he encounters new faces. “Since when did doctors start being younger than I am?” he wonders when he meets the middle-aged physician treating his terminally ill wife, Anna. “Everybody seems to be younger than I am,” he remarks later, “even the dead.”
Max is the deeply intelligent widower at the center of the 2005 Booker Prize-winning novel The Sea, by acclaimed Irish author John Banville. An inveterate brooder, Max has decided to leave the home he shared with Anna, exchanging it for a stay at a seaside vacation spot that he visited as a child. There, he throws himself into an extended reverie, recalling a summer long ago in which he became friends with the young Grace twins. Like their carefree parents, Chloe and Myles Grace became something of a fascination for Max — so much so that all these years later, he is still disturbed by the shocking events that befell the family one warm summer day. His wife has only recently died, but somehow Max is equally preoccupied with the tragedy he witnessed as a boy.
Banville explores the twin themes of the purity of youth and the wisdom of age with great empathy. Accordingly, he writes, Max is “the child of those days grown corpulent and half-grey and almost old.” But Max is nonetheless an insightful and magnetic figure. Banville’s prose is as elegant as that of any literary craftsman working today, and this is one of the greatest, most moving novels to appear in recent years.