Tag-Archive for ◊ Irish coast ◊

• Thursday, June 17th, 2010

John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Ireland, from a father who worked in a garage and a housewife mother. He is the youngest of three siblings, his older brother and sister are also novelists.

He started his education in a Christian Brothers primary School followed by St Peter’s College secondary school in Wexford.

After leaving school John Banville worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin as a clerk, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He moved on and has worked in journalism since 1969. He was a member of the Irish Arts Council from 1984 to 1988 and literary editor for The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

He lives today in Dublin with his American wife whom he married in 1969 and their two adult sons.

John Banville wrote several novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel The Sea, which is his fourteenth, was published in 2005 and won the Man Booker Prize the same year.

List of John Banville’s novels:
Nightspawn, 1971
Birchwood, 1973
Dr Copernicus, 1976
Kepler, 1981
The Newton Letter: An Interlude, 1982
The Book of Evidence,1989
Ghosts, 1993
The Ark, 1996
The Untouchable, 1997
Eclipse, 2000
Shroud, 2002
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a city, 2003
The Sea, 2005
The Infinities, 2009

The Sea is about Max Morden, a retired Irish art historian and a newly bereaved husband in his sixties. Arriving at a crossroads in his existence, he sought some comfort and escapism by returning to live in the same summer house on the Irish coast, where the Grace family once lived many years ago with their twin-children, Chloe and Myles. They became his friends in that memorable summer of his childhood, when they were all in their early teens.

Max Morden, aware of his old age, his mortal vulnerability and obsessed by death, reminisces about the past and lives in a state of constant reverie tinted with melancholic black humour. He is constantly reviewing his previous life and the time he had spent with his late wife Anna who died of cancer. He also dwells on the unforgettable summer spent with the wealthy and attractive Grace family that changed his life.

As if his recent bereavement rekindled the loss of Chloe and Myles, buried in the sea by drowning a long time ago, their deaths made him aware early in his life about the meaning of love and death, an experience which was thrust upon him as a young boy and continued to haunt him as an old man.

After his wife’s death, Max Morden decides to go back to the same Irish seaside resort of his childhood, but this time at the end of his journey, as an old man, in order to seek some solace for his meaningless existence.

The main themes of this short, subtle, remarkable, deep and powerful novel are love, loss and sad memories. Max Morden’s nostalgic thoughts of the past drift swiftly from one period to another, like the high and low tides of the sea or the waxing and waning of the moon.

The Sea has hardly a plot and no suspense, save the twist at the end, when the reader discovers that Miss Vavasour, the Cedars’ tenant, is the one and same Rose, who was Chloe’s and Myles’ governess some fifty years earlier.

The strength and beauty of the novel lies in its eloquence, intense emotions, elegant, lyrical and poetic prose, which makes it a refined work of art, that compels readers to commence their own meditation.

• Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Anita Shreve was born in Dedham Massachusetts in 1946 from an airline pilot father and a housewife mother. She graduated from Tufts University. She worked as high school teacher at Amherst College, Massachusetts. She started writing her novels while working. She was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her book “Past The Island, Drifting”.

She then stopped writing fiction in the late 1970s and worked as a journalist in Nairobi, Kenya for three years. She wrote for Quest magazine, US magazine, New York Times and New York magazine. She decided to give up journalism and dedicate herself full-time to writing fiction. Her books were translated into many languages and she won The Pen L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. She currently lives between Longmeadow Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Anita Shreve wrote several novels :
Eden Close in 1989.
Strange Fits of Passion in 1991.
Where or When in 1993.
Resistance in 1995.
The Weight of Water in 1997.
The Pilot’s Wife in 1998.
Fortune’s Rocks in 2000.
Sea Glass in 2002.

She wrote non-fiction books :
Dr. Balter’s Child Sense in 1985.
Dr. Balter’s Baby Sense in 1985.
Working Woman in 1986.
Remaking Motherhood in 1987.
Who’s in Control in 1988.
Women Together, Women Alone in 1989.

Kathryn is the pilot’s wife and she is the main character of the novel. The story is about her tragedy, her distress, her love, her deceit and her rage, and how she has to deal with the initial shock when she is woken up in the middle of the night by a knock on the door to be told by Robert Hart, the pilot’s union employee, that her husband died in a plane crash with 103 passengers, 10 miles off the coast of Ireland and that there were no survivors.

The novel is divided in two parts, the first half describes in simple, clear prose Kathryn’s struggle to deal with her shock, loss and grievance, while trying to pull herself together for the sake and protection of her 16-year old daughter Mattie, with the help of the kind Robert Hart.

This part holds some hints to prepare readers for what follows in the second half which is full of unexpected painful revelations, challenging Kathryn’s prowess to deal with the truth of her marriage and what has become of it. What appeared at the beginning to be a sad and quiet story turns out to be a gripping one, a thriller combined with the difficult defiance between loss, love and betrayal but also about some hope for the future.

Anita Shreve manages to make a good, captivating read out of a banal, common theme of betrayal and adultery.

Kathryn finds it very hard to bring together her happy memory of a stable, peaceful and uneventful married life in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean in Ely, New Hampshire, a bright teenage daughter, with a husband she cared for dearly, and thought that she knew, with the harsh deceitful reality of who Jack really was. A mixed feeling of grief and danger which triggers her determination to seek the truth at any cost after hearing all the unbelievable rumours, and after discovering various pieces of paper in Jack’s pocket and in his bath-robe with initials and phone numbers which she knew nothing about. She was ready to go through it all even if its outcome turns out to be devastating for her. In any case Kathryn knew that nothing will ever be the same again.

Anita Shreve portrays Kathryn’s confusion and disbelief in switching the chapters constantly from the present with all it’s unpleasantness and cruel devastation, to flashes of the serene, tranquil and more reassuring past. She has masterfully succeeded in conveying Kathryn’s feelings by contrasting the two lives through juxtaposition.

Anita Shreve’s books are often categorized under “women’s novels” due to her acquired art of describing women’s distressful feelings and sensibilities. The Pilot’s Wife appears to be a puzzle that Kathryn tries throughout the novel to unravel piece by piece. She thought she knew her husband but found out that she was living with a complete stranger she knew nothing about.

The readers are aware of that through what Mattie was telling her mother about the rumour that the pilot committed suicide : “Mattie you knew your father.” “Maybe”. “What does that mean ?” “Maybe I didn’t know him” Mattie said. “Maybe he was unhappy”. “If your father was unhappy, I’d have known.” “But how do you ever know that you know a person ?” she asked. What Kathryn didn’t know is that no matter how well you know a loved one intimately, there is always a little secret garden that each one keeps to oneself.

After meeting Muire Boland, Jack’s second wife and seeing their two children, Kathryn was overwhelmed with the sad and crude reality of her suspicion, which led her to drive all the way to the Irish coast, where the plane crashed. She decided to unburden herself from the weight she was carrying by throwing her wedding ring into the sea to join Jack at the bottom of the ocean. She wanted a new start by getting rid of the past and like that the healing operation can take place.

The Pilot’s Wife is an easy, readable book, the style is clear and simple. The plot was progressing well but then the author decided to end the story abruptly leaving a couple of loose threads untied.
The involvement of Jack with the IRA which led to the plane explosion was not explained sufficiently, and the relationship between Kathryn and Robert Hart was left undeveloped.

Anita Shreve was asked in an interview where did she get the idea for The Pilot’s Wife? She answered : “A novel is a collision of ideas. Three or four threads may be floating around in the writer’s consciousness, and at a single moment in time, these ideas collide and produce a novel… I overheard a conversation between a pilot and a woman at a party. Something he said lodged in my consciousness and wouldn’t go away. The thing he said was : When there’s a crash, the union always gets there first. He meant that when there was a crash of a commercial airliner, a member of the pilot’s union made it a point to get to the pilot’s wife house first. There are a lot of reasons for this, the most important of which is to keep her from talking to the press. And there was a collision of ideas.” which produced The Pilot’s Wife.

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