reading tips

John Banville’s Superb Writing – Examples from The Sea

I loved The Sea, a novel by John Banville I’ve just finished reading, about a man who’s just lost his wife to cancer.

Banville’s an amazing writer.

You’ll see this right away when you read these quotations.

I’ve just copied a few things, but really the novel is full of great writing.

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The novel is about nothing else but the past (about the protagonist’s first crush on his neighbour, then on her daughter, and it all ends with the loss of his wife). There is very little present in the novel. What’s left of the present does nothing to cheer the protagonist (or the reader) up.

When his wife falls ill he tries to tell himself it’s not so bad.

Oh, but it is very bad.

This fantasy about a hospital room is horrifying and beautiful at the same time:

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After a storm, the protagonist feels as if great things are going to happen to him. As he says, many people have this feeling at some point in their lives. I’ve had it and I’m sure you’ve had it. But doesn’t he describe it in a great way! I especially like the metaphor of how he feels he is going onto the stage:

Jamie Ford

But redemption will not come from God.


And the final excerpt is a lot less heavy-going. It’s a pitiful (but comic) account of the protagonist’s drunken bout.

He started drinking at the pub, but the pub owner considers he has had enough, so he stumbles back home to pick up his own brandy bottle, which he fondly nicknames the Little Corporal. Little Corporal under his arm, he goes for a little walk.

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