John Banville’s novels are really prose poems, concerned principally with rhythm, cadence and incantation, and far less with character and plot. Take the opening lines of ‘The Sea’:
“They departed, the gods, on the day of the strange tide. All morning under the milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled and swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waters creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes.”
These sentences are wrought from careful alliteration, with added consonantic and asonantic rhymes – every word exactingly balanced. The author seeks out the unusual phrase, the original image.
– Joanna Kavenna,
The New Yorker, July 11 & 18, 2011, p. 90