Page 34. " My mother cooked on a paraffin stove "
Kerosene (Paraffin) Stove
Public DomainKerosene (Paraffin) Stove - Credit: Diceman


Kerosene is sometimes called paraffin in the UK and Ireland. 

Kerosene stoves were quite common in Irish holiday cottages (also known as 'chalets').


Page 35. " I picture her sitting at the oilcloth-covered table "
Bolts of Oilcloth
Creative Commons AttributionBolts of Oilcloth - Credit: gina pina

Oilcloth is semi-waterproof and cheap, and was often used to cover floors and roofs.  It was also used for kitchen tablecloths and tents.

It is made by stretching linen cloth on a frame and coating it with linseed oil.

Oilcloth Blog

Page 38. " I hope she does not start on John Field, I could not bear that. "

John Field (1782-1837) was an Irish composer and pianist.  He is most noted for composing the first nocturnes, musical pieces that evoke the night.  His work influenced the great pianist-composer, Frédéric Chopin, who adopted the nocturne as a favourite form.

Listen on Spotify:

Nocturne No.1 in E flat major by John Field

Nocturne No.5 in B flat major by John Field


Page 43. " She is very bright, quite the bluestocking. "

Michael Quinion, on his site World Wide Words, writes about the origins of the term 'Bluestocking'. 

Banville uses it in this instance to infer that Max's daughter is both an educated girl and perhaps a bit frumpy.

Page 44. " she always makes me think, shamefacedly, of Tenniel's drawing of Alice "
Public DomainAlice - Credit: John Tenniel



The drawing comes from Lewis Carroll's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice has eaten the cake marked EAT ME, and has grown miraculously: "now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!"




Page 45. " all Byzantine coppers and golds under a Tiepolo sky of enamelled blue "

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) was, according to the National Gallery, "the greatest Italian Rococo painter... His imaginative decorative frescoes are light in colour and airy in feel."

Tiepolo's skies are particularly fine, and are revered by art lovers the world over.

An Allegory with Venus and Time, painted in the 1750s, has an interesting connection to The Sea because the Three Graces appear in the sky (Grace is the name of the upper-class family that holds the young Max in awe).   It hangs in Room 40 of the National Gallery in London.

Page 49. " I was pleased to note that the name given to the place, ersatz though it be, is The Lupins "


Creative Commons Attribution Share Alikelupinus - Credit: titanium22




The blue tree lupin produces branching stems from a stout trunk. Fragrant bicolored blue flowers, much loved by bees and butterflies, are produced throughout the summer.