Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2005 Booker Prize Winner

The Sea by John Banville


Publisher: Picador

Length: 208

About: Growing up and growing old

Style: 1st person

Where: Ireland

When: 1990s



Publisher’s synopsis:

Led back to Ballyless by a dream, Max Morden is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma in the coastal town where he spent a holiday in his youth. The Grace family appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon found himself entangled in their lives which were as seductive as they were unsettling. What ensued haunts him for the rest of his years and shapes everything that is to follow.




I am amazed at how little has changed in the more than fifty years that have gone by since I was last here. Amazed, and disappointed, I would go so far as to say appalled, for reasons that are obscure to me, since why should I desire change, I who have come back to live amidst the rubble of the past?




Banville's book recalls such poised masters as Proust and Beckett (and, indeed, James) not because he wants you to know how well-read he is, but to invoke a kind of guarantee that he knows fiction has responsibilities to its subjects as well as its readers. And that we can mention such writers in the same breath as Banville should alert us to the fact that we can count ourselves privileged to be around at the same time as he is.

The Guardian, Nicholas Lezard, 6th May 2006


Not so good:

What's strangest about "The Sea" is that the novel somehow becomes simpler and clearer as it gets more self-conscious: a consequence, I suppose, of its author dropping the pretense of being one kind of writer and giving in to his authentic and much more complicated creative nature. This misshapen but affecting novel turns out to be about something even more familiar than the loss of innocence: it's about grief, the misery and confusion the narrator feels on losing his wife.

 New York Times, Terrence Rafferty 27th November 2005


About the author

William John Banville (born 8 December 1945 in Wexford ), who writes as John Banville who sometimes writes as Benjamin Black, is an Irish novelist, adapter of dramas, and screenwriter. Banville was educated at a Christian Brothers school and at St Peter's College, Wexford. Despite having intended to be a painter and an architect he did not attend university. Banville has described this as "A great mistake. I should have gone. I regret not taking that four years of getting drunk and falling in love. But I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to be free."  Alternately he has stated that college would have had little benefit for him - "I don’t think I would have learned much more, and I don’t think I would have had the nerve to tackle some of the things I tackled as a young writer if I had been to university—I would have been beaten into 
submission by my lecturers."  After school he worked as a clerk at Aer Lingus which allowed him to travel at deeply discounted rates. He took advantage of this to travel in Greece and Italy. He lived in the United States during 1968 and 1969. On his return to Ireland he became a sub-editor at The Irish Press, rising eventually to the position of chief sub-editor.


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Age guide: 12+




Novels by same author:




2013 film directed by Stephen Brown starring Ciaran Hinds, Rufus Sewell, Charlotte Rampling and Natascha McElhone








2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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