The novel looked very appealing, both the title and the cover: THE SEA. But in the end it was a disappointment.
This review is very personal. My intention is to write down my impressions, my most personal and irrational ones. In my free time, I read in order to grow and this novel did not feed my heart. Okay, the style is good, so is the writer, but I do not read novels just for their form.
As regards content, I would divide it in two parts. First, there is the section of grief, loss and middle age, and then the rest which concerns women. I really dislike the protagonist of the novel and therefore I did not enjoy the novel at all because he is the only narrator in the story. The rest of characters, which are mostly women, are silenced.
I hate the protagonist because he despises all the women who he could not choose to be in his life. Especially, his daughter and his mother. And, as I see it, it is because of their physical appearance. When he is little, he is ashamed of his parents, especially of his mother.
"Had it been in my power I would have cancelled my shaming parents on the spot, would have popped them like bubbles of sea spray, my fat bare-faced mother and my father whose body might have been made of lard."
And he is sort of repelled by his daughter because she is ugly. Beauty is love. Beauty is not a fact. Maybe it is a fact that each society has a beauty standard (for females only) by which women are measured. But, if a father loves his daughter and sees that she does not fit those beauty standards, should not that father rebel against those stupid norms that read that women should be adored on an artificial basis? Anyone not fitting them is to be laughed at. Good for that father. Disgusting.
“What age is she now, twenty-something, I am not sure. She is very bright, quite the blue-stocking. Not beautiful, however, I admitted that to myself long ago. I cannot pretend this is not a disappointment, for I had hoped that she would be another Anna. She is too tall and stark, her rusty hair is coarse and untameable and stands out around her freckled face in an unbecoming manner, and when she smiles she shows her upper gums (...) With those spindly legs and big bum, that hair, the long neck especially (...) she always makes me think, shamefacedly, of Tenniel's drawing of Alice when she has taken a nibble from the magic mushroom.Yet she is brave and makes the best of herself and the world.”Notice that the positive qualities of her daughter are summarised in one sentence, at the beginning, and then another single sentence at the end of the paragraph. In the middle, all those long, fastidious, childish comments that reduce her to an object. A useless object, according to him.
In contrast, he deifies the Graces, indeed, he even calls them “the gods”. To make things worse, what attracts him about that family is not just their physical beauty but also their money. You know, some of us working class people have our own class-struggle epiphany in our lives, while some others grow to be adults with the shame of having been born into a humble family, although they do not admit it, their only goal in life is to ascend the society stairs, instead of dreaming of a fairer society. Anyway, going back to the protagonist of the novel, it is the same as regards his wife, he adores her, mostly highlighting her shallow beauty. Again, we do not hear her voice. Oh, yes, and her father is rich...which adds to her beauty, I'm sure...
"How proud I was to be seen with them, these divinities, for I thought of course that they were the gods, so different were they from anyone I had hitherto known. (...) My parents had not met Mr. And Mrs. Grace, nor would they. People in a proper house did not mix with them."
Regarding middle age, loss and grief, there are sentences, paragraphs and sections which are really good because the author knows how to capture the essence of a person suffering from them. But I am not satisfied with that part either since the message is very discouraging.