The Sea is old memory made newly vivid. Art historian Max Morden returns to the Irish seaside village in County Wexford where he spent his childhood summers more than fifty years earlier. He has retreated there ostensibly to write the definitive book on the French painter, Pierre Bonnard. Settling into the former house of the Graces, a family that held claim to his adolescent heart, he reconnects with his innocence, with his first glimpse of love, but also with a profound experience of sorrow.
Painterly images of the sea and the surrounding landscape ebb throughout the narrator’s remembrances as he contends with the distant past, the recent loss of his wife and present conflicts with his daughter. Memory itself becomes a character in this reflection on love and loss as Max re-inhabits the house of the Grace family in an attempt to grapple with his grief and to resurrect the memories of twins Chloe and Miles, whose tragedy left an indelible stamp on his heart.
Max Morden returns to the sea as if to cleanse himself, and to protest against the 'great world's shrugs of indifference.'