Max Morden is mourning the wife he has recently lost to cancer. He returns to the seaside of his childhood summers to stay in the house where his first love also once stayed. Reconstruction of the past through memory is one of the central themes of this novel. It leads Morden to drink, grief and writing. The sea is where his first love disappeared and where he is now disappearing. It is memory itself, its high rising tides are what threaten to drown the present, and even the past.
Some critic has commented that the novel is one of unrelieved gloom, this is not quite true as there are some fine 'sunny patches' in the writing, but, perhaps, little joy. Banville's writing style is excellent as always but the content is seamy in part. There is a suggestion of a lesbian affair (…), and Morden’s developing sexual awareness and adolescence are a significant part of the book, and are distasteful. People become reduced to objects and a sense of hopelessness pervades the novel. The last two paragraphs contain magnificent writing.
A.D. (Ireland, 2006)