Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “El mar” as Want to Read:
El mar
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

El mar

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  23,848 ratings  ·  2,452 reviews
Tras la reciente muerte de su esposa después de una larga enfermedad, el historiador de arte Max Morden se retira a escribir al pueblo costero en el que de niño veraneó junto a sus padres. El pasado se convierte entonces en el único refugio y consuelo para Max, que rememorará el intenso verano en el que conoció a los Grace (los padres Carlo y Connie, sus hijos gemelos Chlo ...more
Paperback, Panorama de narrativas #644, 219 pages
Published July 26th 2006 by Anagrama (first published May 17th 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about El mar, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Arnold Not compassionate in his views of others (and himself), yes, but maybe dispassionate? Like The Sea itself?
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,848 ratings  ·  2,452 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of El mar
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I think there's a big difference between literature and fiction, and this book is a perfect example - as is obvious from the number of negative reviews posted on this website! Some books can be read purely for their entertainment value. We like reading them because the plots and settings and characters capture our interest. That's what fiction does. But some books provide an additional dimension for readers who are willing to put a little more time and thought into what they are reading and who ...more
John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for this novel, and what a well-deserved honour and tribute for this masterfully written, poignant and deeply moving story.

I read somewhere that John Banville is considered “a writer’s writer”. I can definitely see that. On the other hand, he is also “a reader’s writer” because I am a reader, and thousands of other readers have also enjoyed Mr. Banville’s writing.

This is Max Morden’s story and he narrates throughout. Seamlessly, we follow him along
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cecily by: Dolors

Ah, the sea - especially the smell of the sea, a phrase as familiar as the idea that aromas have a visceral power to exhume memories we didn’t know we had ever had and lost.

Smells of all sorts permeate the pages of this book and waft up, creating a synaesthetic connection to people and places in Max’s life. My second-hand paper book added a medley of vague aromas of its own. Not something to read on Kindle (though for me, nothing is).


This is an intensely sensual book, but not in the u
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
The Depths of Vocabulary

John Banville loves words just as they are. Words like losel, and finical, gleet, scurf, bosky, cinerial, and merd that will really screw up your spell-checker. It's part of his masterful charm. Add his ability to put these words together in velvet sentences, and combine sentences into exquisite narrative, and voila: a writer worth his it were, especially with a title like The Sea. Inspired by Henry James? Very possibly, particularly by The Turn of the Screw and
Nude in the Bath and Small Dog, Pierre Bonnard, 1941-46

What has this luminous painting of a female bather to do with a book called "The Sea", you might ask? More than you might think. Pierre Bonnard, a French Post-Impressionist painter, often painted his wife Marthe. He painted this particular piece when she was in her 70s, and she had died by the time he completed it. We can see by virtue of the recognisable images of female form and bathtub, the general gist of the painting. But the image goes
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who don't want to forget.
Shelves: read-in-2013
"And I, who timidly hate life, fear death with fascination."Livro do desassossego, Fernando Pessoa

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it” proclaims Max Morten, narrator and main character of The Sea, after his wife Anna passes away victim of a long and enduring illness.
Drowning in the grief which comes with the vast and ruthless sea of loss, he decides to seclude himself in the little coastal village where he spent his summers as a boy. A flood of unavoidab
Night, and everything so quiet, as if there were no one, not even myself. I cannot hear the sea, which on other nights rumbles and growls, now near grating, now afar and faint. I do not want to be alone like this. Why have you not come back to haunt me? Is the least I would have expected of you. Why this silence day after day, night after interminable night? It is like a fog, this silence of yours.

What is John Banville’s The Sea all about? An infinite weave of contemplative and melancholic f
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just have to say it: it's all semiunremarkable until page 170 or so (this book, like many in the modern canon, such as “Amsterdam,” another Booker winner, is short in that bittersweet sort of way—perilously malingering, at 200 pages, between being almost a novel, but not quite a novella)—the plot ebbs and flows (ha) through an ocean of profound memories. The narrator chronicles, basically, two points in his life which left him devastated. His first ever, and his latest, all revolve around the ...more
Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
A gentleman reflects on his life, especially his youth, after the death of his wife. He returns to the formative landscape of his childhood, a modest seaside town and inn in Ireland. It is also the site of the formative tragedy of his childhood. In effect, we have a coming-of-age novel as reflected upon in later life. Instead of the psychological depth of Danish author Jens Grondahl reflecting on his marriage in Silence in October, we get lush descriptions and beautiful turns of phrase. Thoughtf ...more
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jay by: Man Booker 2005 Winner
When my wife died suddenly in 1998 from a cerebral aneurysm, one of the things that I did in the wake of her death was to begin to reconnect with people and places that had meaning both for us as a couple and for me alone. In many cases, I ended up returning to places from my own childhood and reconnecting with people whom I had not contacted for years. Both the process itself and the actual reconnections to past places and friends helped me cope with the loss. It also activated memories that I ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The narrator of The Sea is an odious man. I wasn’t sure I ever understood why Banville made him so odious. As a child he hits his dog for pleasure; he pulls the legs off insects and burns them in oil. As an adult, he’s a crude misogynist without knowing he’s a misogynist, a narcissist and a masochistic misanthrope. He makes constant allusions to his acquired humility and wisdom but he comes across throughout the book as largely ignorant and arrogant. There’s no apotheosis. Because Max is present ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vessey by: Seemita
Shelves: 4-stars
I wish to thank my wonderful friend Seemita, who is truly an amazing reviewer, for inspiring me to read this book.

"The silence about me was heavy as the sea."

Silence. It is a special kind of language. The language of the dead, of those long gone, of the forgotten, the misunderstood, the hurt, the mad and, sometimes, the content. What do they tell me? What does silence tell me? What does it tell Max Morden? It tells him a story. The story of his life. It embraces him, caresses him, whispers to hi
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Sea really bugged me. I've never read another John Banville novel, so I don't know whether this one is typical of his writing in general, but nothing irritates me more these days than a writer who has considerable gifts at his command who writes novels that function as elegant window displays for the considerable gifts at his command. The plot of the book, such as it is, finds middle-aged Max Morden retiring to a rented house by the sea, near the "chalets" where he spent his boyhood summers, ...more

The past beats inside me like a second heart.

Max Morden had met once gods. They came in the guise of Grace family. Father, noisy lecherous satyr. Mother, oozing sensuality indolent goddess, will become his first erotic fascination. And twins. Chloe, very mature for her age, feisty girl with rather strong personality and Myles, shy and impish boy. There was Rose yet, nanny or governess, a sad nymph holding a secret in her heart. They rented at the seaside a summer house, called The Cedars.

And no
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”
- John Banville, The Sea


Over the years, I've collected about 3 or 4 Banville books (just bought a slog more). The first was given to me by a girl I liked in HS, but never got around to reading it or dating her. I was finally inspired (or moved?) to read 'the Sea' (and a couple other Ireland-themed novels) because I was going to spend a week with the wife in Ireland and there is nothing better to read about on vacation than sex*, death, loss and san
Andy Marr
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I was John Banville, I'd be tremendously proud to find my masterpiece resting a mere two million places below Fifty Shades of Shite in the Goodreads rankings.

The silence about me was heavy as the sea.
Sitting by the sea, I am trying hard to evade the embrace of camphoric memories that hover schemingly, stroked by the amorous waves. Often this colossal sapphire vial of solitude, seduced by a flicker of cuprous sky or a kiss of the timorous breeze, changes colour and instead of heaping balms of comfort, loathes me with a vision so sharp that a part of me detaches with a vile force and travels into the dense, supine but thorny gardens of bygo
The world is not real until it is pushed through the mesh of language. It is a way of validating reality for myself. ~ John Banville in Drexel University interview.

There are enough outstanding reviews about this book on GR. I'm neither going to try and elevate myself to that level, nor pretend to know more than I really do. With a lack of literary background and English linguistic skills, I will merely express my simple opinion of an outstanding read. But first let's get (some of) the accola
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really thought this was going to be a special book for me to read, and it just wasn’t. This book is narrated by Max, a man with childhood memories of time spent by the sea, with a family that greatly influenced him. Max has recently lost his wife, and goes back to the place by the sea where the childhood memories took place.
This is the longest short book I’ve ever read, I had to stop and look up words in the dictionary, continuously. It’s probably just me... there are many beautiful reviews fo
I actually put this book in the same category as James Frey's "Million Little Pieces": so bad, it was enjoyable to read. But of course this was bad in entirely more ambitious, pretentious ways than Frey could ever achieve. It's been about two years since I read this, so forgive my lack of specificity, but I'll try to pin down some examples of appalling devices that both rankled and tickled me.

-Balliteration: Banville, perhaps due to his over fondness for the first letter of his last name (as ot
Richard Derus
Real Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: When Max Morden returns to the coastal town where he spent a holiday in his youth he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma.

The Grace family appear that long ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon finds himself entangled in their lives, which are as seductive as they are unsettling. What ensues will haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that is to follo
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the present that lives in the past
The Sea - All that water, perhaps, that inexorable slow flood, or perhaps, that relentless ambulatory constant, is one that consumes time, more like dedimentionizes time, if that's a word, provides a cathartic shoulder, and stands remorselessly tall as if symbolizing an indifferent eternity. It cries within like a whimpering child as if it is made purely of emotions, and it roars in insurmountable outrage at the shore which is in a constant tussle to bind it. But it also retreats like a capr ...more
This review may contain spoilers.

Max Morden, recently widowed and father of a grown daughter, has traveled back to the sea, back to the seaside property that was the scene of a tragic event some fifty odd years ago. He would remember meeting the Grace family and becoming emotionally attached to the mother, Mrs. Grace, and to falling in love with her daughter Chloe.

This is my first Banville book and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Not because I didn't think it would be good, but by how goo
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sea by John Banville began with an enigmatic mention of an unforgettable day in the life of the narrator, Max Morden. It was ‘the day of the strange tide’ some fifty years ago and we were told that he would not swim again after that day. My reactions to this book that won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 were strangely lukewarm. I admired it for its impeccable prose, sensitive handling of overwhelming emotions, and traces of wry humor. I was, uncharitably, impatient with the slow unravelling of ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Elegiac” is one of those literary adjectives, having to do with death. You get your fill of that with this one. Hell, the main character is named Max Morden, so what do you expect? Unfortunately, the better written an elegiac novel is, the sadder it seems.

Banville, it’s fair to say, is a writer’s writer. This one got him a Booker Prize, so, lit cred out the wazoo, right? (I love playing the lowbrow in the face of such splendid erudition.) Actually, I can see how highbrows might value The Sea f
Reading John Banville is like taking a long, sumptuous bath. In my book, he is one of the finest prose stylists alive. The man can write. His language and sentences are gorgeous.

I’d like to say Banville is a marvel at describing characters but in fact he’s a marvel at describing everything, from a breeze to a rain barrel:

“It was a wooden barrel, a real one, full-size, the staves blackened with age and the iron hoops eaten to frills by rust. The rim was nicely bevelled, and so smooth that one cou
Jul 11, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Banville's Mother
What in the hell just happened. Did I really trudge through all that overly-wrought prose only to curse Banville for producing the hint of redemption in the end of this thesaurus-spawn mud puddle? Thank you Booker Prize for yet another quality laugh. Here's a quality quote for those in doubt:

"seeming not to walk but bounce, rather, awkward as a half-inflated barrage balloon buffeted by successive breath-robbing blows out of the past."

You've got to be kidding me John: here here I say to b'alliter
In the face of so many sublime reviews of this book I come up short. After the loss of his wife, Max comes adrift and seeks some kind of fertilization from visiting the seaside town of holidays in his childhood. Nice immersion in people and memories, but ultimately the book came off as too bland as Max had too little at stake, too little impetus to reshape his vision of the world, and not enough angst to take real risks.
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: death, poetry
“The waves clawed at the suave sand along the waterline, scrabbling to hold their ground but steadily failing.”

To be at sea. It means to have lost your bearings, like a ship adrift in the ocean. While grieving for his recently-departed wife, Max Morden visits a place from his childhood loaded with intense memories. He embodies that lost at sea state of mind, and in this novel we observe what brought him to that point, and his half-hearted attempts to survive it.

“There are moments when the past h
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: The Sea by John Banville 4 25 Jul 23, 2020 11:11AM  
Play Book Tag: The Sea by John Banville - 4 stars 5 17 Dec 14, 2019 07:08AM  
Play Book Tag: The Sea - John Banville - 4 stars 1 17 Dec 06, 2019 07:49AM  
Volusia County Pu...: This topic has been closed to new comments. The Sea 1 6 Apr 03, 2018 01:40PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
  • The Gathering
  • The Finkler Question
  • Vernon God Little
  • Amsterdam
  • The Old Devils
  • The Line of Beauty
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
  • The Inheritance of Loss
  • True History of the Kelly Gang
  • Oscar and Lucinda
  • Winterwood
  • Last Orders
  • Disgrace
  • The Sense of an Ending
  • The Sea, The Sea
  • Life and Times of Michael K
  • Hotel du Lac
See similar books…
Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage and died when Banville was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a reminiscence of growing up ...more

Related Articles

This is surely the greatest single volume of poetry ever published. Yeats the man was a ninny, but Yeats the poet was truly great.
11 likes · 3 comments
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” 2314 likes
“We carry the dead with us only until we die too, and then it is we who are borne along for a little while, and then our bearers in their turn drop, and so on into the unimaginable generations.” 83 likes
More quotes…