I didn't know what to expect with this book when I first picked it up. Some how I missed all the earlier buzz when it won the Booker Prize. That's not always a bad thing. I like to come to a book without hearing a great deal about it ahead of time. I can honestly say that I liked the book, and I understand why it won (although I don't remember which books it was up against). Banville is obviously a talented writer. Grief and memory are the two major themes of the book. Max Morden is the narrator who tells us the story of how he loses his wife to cancer. Following her death, he returns to a seaside cottage that he visited as a child to deal with his loss and the ghosts of something that happened long ago. The reader doesn't really know what it is that draws Max back to the beach until close to the end of the book. He introduces us to the Grace family, but at first I really couldn't figure out why he was telling us about them. It simply didn't seem relevant at the time. He just lost his wife for heaven's sake. Why should we care about the family he met as a boy on vacation? I won't say more about that because he does a nice job of answering all the questions for the reader as the book comes to a close.
I usually either like the narrator or hate the narrator. In this case, I seemed to have a fickle relationship with Max. At times, I felt extreme sympathy for him as he struggled to deal with his grief. However, at other times, I felt more like slapping him. I guess he was just being honest about his feelings. But, at times, I wanted to scream at him -- you're wife is the one dying of cancer! He seemed very needy and somewhat of a chauvinist. He even had some unkind things to say about his own daughter. I guess I may be being too hard on him. Everyone grieves differently, and none of us would hold up very well against criticism if the rest of the world could read our minds.
The book does give the reader a glimpse into what it would be like living with someone with a terminal illness and the aftermath of their death. A close family member went through this a couple years ago, and I could relate to some of the things that Max went through. Grief is a funny thing. It can make you feel as if you're losing your mind at times. Overall, I would recommend this book. I had a few quibbles, such as the narrator interrupting the story unnecessarily. However, this wasn't a big deal. Just know going in that this isn't a feel good book.