At the beginning of The Sea, first-person narrator Max Morden, an aging art historian, stands looking out to sea, which throughout the novel acts as an anchoring point between the past and the present. After losing his wife Anna to cancer, Max feels the compulsion to return to Ballyless, the site of an important childhood summer. It was in this seaside village that he first encountered the sophisticated Grace family and fell in love with both daughter and mother. The children, web-footed Myles and Chloe Grace, are psychically connected twins. Their mother, Connie Grace, is beautiful, and their father, Carlo Grace, represents the god Bacchus—drunk, fat, all-seeing, and fully aware that the pubescent Max is smitten with his wife. The family travels with a teenage governess named Rose. Since Max’s own home life is a shambles, he spends every minute he can with the fascinating family. Sandwiched in between his recollections of his distant past are Max’s memories of a more recent event, the prolonged death of his wife Anna.
After fifty years, Max finds that the Grace’s summerhouse, called the Cedars, has become a boardinghouse run by a Miss Vavasour. In an attempt to grapple with his memories and mourn his loss, he rents a room there. Despairing of ever finishing his monograph on the artist Pierre Bonnard, he has come to live among the rabble of his past, as he puts it, and ponder the idea that by devoting as much time as possible to...
(The entire section is 435 words.)