Beautifully written but tediously plotted, I struggled with whether to give this 3 stars or 4. I ended up knocking off a star because in the end my ratings are based mostly on how much I enjoyed a book, and while I can appreciate the aesthetic and literary qualities of The Sea
, the bottom line is that it bored me.
Banville is one of those authors who makes art out of every sentence, and if you enjoy that sort of writing, you can immerse yourself in it and enjoy each and every word. However, I found him to be an almost but not quite perfect craftsman; his writing is not self-conscious in that pretentious way some self-styled "literary" authors get, but here and there some of his sentences were forced, like a painting where you can see the brush strokes if you look closely.
The more fatal flaw, for me, was that the story moves so very slowly, and it's a story that could easily be condensed to one page. Do you like introspective meandering by a middle-aged man who's wasted his life and now is holding each and every one of his regrets up to the light to examine it? Do you want to read about a man who turns into a washed-up alcoholic after his wife dies, and the most important thing that ever happened in his life happened when he was thirteen? Then you'll enjoy the beautiful, literary prose with which Banville delves into every nook and cranny of his protagonist's psyche, and he does illustrate every character in marvelous, sometimes breathtaking detail. His writing skill is enviable, but I'm one of those nikulturny
readers who thinks storytelling is important too. This isn't a book you read to be entertained, it's a book you read so you can talk about it in book clubs and brag about how you read a Man Booker Prize-winner.