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le 23 mars 2011
The minds of people approaching the age of 60 are supposed to be invaded and captured by a first wave of childhood memories. It prompts self-centered Max Morden (MM), age unknown, to write this quite frank and transparent autobiography. So frank that after reading it, two dozen adjectives are insufficient to fully describe MM's own character, whose book is situated on the Irish coast with a view of the sea. Readers might want to make a tally of negative adjectives on MM, and compare them in book reviewing gatherings.

MM is an elderly writer on French painters (a dilettante, second-rater in his own understated judgment), still quite tall, but in mental and physical decline. After the death of his wife Anna he has returned to where all his early life-stirring events and drama began, to The Cedars, the rented house the far wealthier Clare family occupied many decades ago. As a tall 11-year old he befriended the smaller, strange twins Myles and Chloe, fell in love with their mother but later became enchanted with Chloe. Now The Cedars has become a rundown lodging house with an eccentric landlady and only one other occupant of its six rooms for rent, a retired Colonel with set habits. The atmosphere!

From a young age MM has been an acute watcher and every page provides evidence. In his later life, when early memories crop up unaided, MM often links incoming thoughts to paintings he has studied and adores, Bonnard most of all (and de la Tour and Gericault, as MM would like me to add to this review). Late in the autobiography MM admits he has no personality, never had one. It may be the key admission in this brilliantly-paced, tragic and often hilariously-funny account of the life of a person unable to relate to anyone.

John Banville won the 2005 Man Booker Prize with this masterpiece, which is perfectly paced, with surprises hidden throughout the book right until the final pages. On every page the reader is challenged to pick up a dictionary to acknowledge MM's Irish superior way with words. An absolutely great, rich and annually re-readable novel. And the gaps of decades between youth and elderly fumbling are for the reader to fabulate about.
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le 10 avril 2009
A book initially purchased for discussion at our book-club. I was disconcerted by its temporal oscillation, without warning, often within the same chapter. Although the narrator, Max is apparently an educated man, he's unaware of the purpose of the Plimsoll-line or its association with footwear and his malapropisation of British weather stations, offered another opinion as to his informative years. Until that moment I wasn't even certain which country we were in. He's excessive use of "or" when describing an event, place or character, not seeming able to settle on one descriptive phrase, I felt was unnecessary. In short, if I hadn't been obliged to read this book for our club, I'd have given up after the first few pages. I had the impression I was reading a 263 page poem.
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Recently widowed Max Morden decides to spend some time in the seaside village where he used to spend his holidays with his parents as a child. He resides in the house the Grace family rented on the summer when he befriended the Grace's twins. Very slowly the reminiscences of this eventful summer emerge in sad and painful twirls of consciousness.
John Banville has a beautiful way of writing which follows the slow resurgences of a bruised memory.
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le 5 mars 2016
Loved it. Use of language exceptional. We return in this novel to Banville's preoccupations with the sea, the beach, the house where he explores family relationships, teenage infatuations and awakening sexual desire, 50's Ireland, Catholicism of course…..
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le 7 décembre 2013
The interior monologue of a man who examines his life, his loves, his griefs, his achievements and his failures with self derision and an impossible attempt at honesty. The language and the imagery are beautiful.
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le 30 juin 2014
L'auteur emploie un langage littéraire et parfois surprenant, mais tout est critd'un style direct et facile à lire. Je vais chercher d'autres titres de cet écrivain irlandais.
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le 17 août 2016
Beautifully written prose. Fine, sensitive descriptions of nature and peoples reactions. However, I lost interest in the narrator, now quite old, in his reminiscences of life in his teens: they didn't justify all those purple passages.
It's wonderful to find good prose, but that alone does not retain the readers interest.
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