Ancient Light

Several years ago, my brother sent me a copy of John Banville’s The Sea, which won the prestigious Man Booker prize in 2005. I was impressed by its richness of observation and Nabokovian prose, but the plot wasn’t strong enough to keep me reading. That’s no problem with this novel, Banville’s 16th, which offers several vivid plot lines, most prominently that of the narrator’s remembered affair with his best friend’s mother, when he was 15 and she was 35. In that sense, this is Banville’s Lolita, a book that combines passionate eroticism with luminous explorations of sensory memory and moment-by-moment consciousness written with an attention to detail and precision that borders on poetry. Banville is a master, and here he has a tale worthy of his prodigious skills. It makes me want to give The Sea another shot.