Booker#6: The Sea

I loved Never Let Me Go in 2013. It had the feel and originality of a Booker Prize winner. Of course, it was also very well written. It was hard to believe though that it was a mere runner-up.Indeed, there was a tie in the jury’s decision as to which book should be awarded the prize; half chose Never Let Me Go, half chose The Sea. In the end the Chair of Judges, John Sutherland, opted for John Banville’s The Sea.

The Sea is a nice book. It is quite of the same size as Never Let Me Go. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it has three storylines; the distant past, the past and the present. In between these episodes the narrator takes time to reflect on these happenings in his life. I believe this is where The Sea’s distinction comes from. John Banville is a poet who is very good at making his story sound very lyrical without detracting any meaning away.There are passages in the book that are very powerful because of their accuracy in describing particular moments, and the English used is very beautiful and of a very high level; sometimes the narrator will use an unusual word and comment on its beauty. I must admit to being very much in awe of Banville’s mastery of the English language.

Plotwise,The Sea is still a good book. However, if you have to only look at the blurbs of the other shortlisted novels,Never Let Me Go included, you will be hard pressed to admit that their plots are not as intriguing as The Sea’s. I think that’s why The Sea is not a popular Man Booker Prize winner. People not used to this type of book will not appreciate its lyricism, which is its main strength,and will only focus on the plot, which admittedly is not unforgettable.

The Sea is among the most beautiful, but not greatest, novels I’ve read. It really does not surprise me that it is a recipient of the Man Booker Prize. Yet, given its plot, you have to wonder if there is not some truth to what is said about the Booker Prize: the judges do their best to ignore popular appeal. In 2001 the hugely popular Atonement was runner-up to True History of the Kelly Gang. I’m pretty sure the judges in 2005 were caught in the same train of thought as their counterparts were in 2001.That being said, The Sea is a unique novel that needs to be read for the sheer beauty of its lines.

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8 thoughts on “Booker#6: The Sea”

  1. I loved the writing in this novel – my first experience of Banville’s work – and I’ve since gone on to read other work by him with great pleasure. You’re right that the plot doesn’t amount to a lot but boy can he conjure up the atmosphere

    1. Yep, the writing is superb. There’s this quote about his parents that I find extremely beautiful – it is among my favourites!
      I like reading books and watching movies where there is a sort of mystery/suspense. So I can follow a story pretty well and collect the clues.In this case, I could see the denouement from quite a distance.
      Now I really want to read Ali Smith’s The Accidental, which was shortlisted that same year.

  2. I think it’s interesting to think of how judges try to ignore the popular appeal. I trust that people know what they like, and usually I like books my friends have liked or my favorite bloggers have liked, however there are always really good books and I guess marketing failed them or there were not enough of resources…what not.

    True History of the Kelly Gang was really good I think. The Sea has lovely covers but I think I’ll pass 🙂 unless it happens to throw itself at me

    1. Yep! That’s true. There are books which would never have won the Booker if the judges relied on the appeal they have on the public. For instance, Inheritance of Loss, a not so popular book, wouldn’t have won it, and I would have taken so much time before reading it!

      Oddly enough a friend told me never to read True History of the Kelly Gang. I know how he is though. He is more amazed with post modernist language than with anything else. Whilst I also revel in reading non-fiction books, he has a much harder time doing so. I am sure if the book was awarded the Booker, it must be for a certain reason!

      1. I liked True History of Kelly Gang because I feel like I didn’t know much about Australian history. Though I think it was a novel actually. I’m not always impressed by writing in books, sometimes it’s the imagination that makes the difference.

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