Max has returned the Cedars, a seaside cottage, as he attempts to exorcise the ghosts of those he loved. His exorcism occurs as he remembers pivotal events from his past that involves those he loved dying. That’s it; that’s the whole kit and caboodle.
Aside from some interesting revelations that occur in literally the last 10 pages, the novel is a bit of snoozer—and a confusing one at that. Max’s memories jump to three different points in time at his own whim, leaving the reader to figure out where in time in time they’re reading (think of those left on the Island in LOST after Ben displaces the Island with a turn of that donkey wheel—only less interesting than that). The windy structure of the novel made it difficult to really invest in any character, thus reading the novel became more of a chore than a pleasure (hence why it took me a full week to read this short book).
John Banville’s writing style is itself great; and a more linear story (or at least a story with a character I can sympathize with) would probably make for a fascinating read. As far as The Sea is concerned, however, don’t bother reading it—unless you want to read a journalistic trip down memory lane.