It is narrated in the first person by an art historian who is trying to deal with the loss of his wife through a visit to three places that were important in his past The narration goes back in forth in time as the consciousness of the narrator flows back and forth. The movement of the sea is the dominating metaphor for this wonderful book and it perfectly is reflected in the narrative mode and prose of the work. The sadness part of the novel deals with the narrator's attempt to relate to his wife during a period when they both know she will be dying soon.
I read in a post somewhere (I would give credit but I lost the reference) that the best thing about reading a Banville novel is knowing you are in the hands of a master and just opening yourself up to his brilliance.
Please share your experience with Banville with us.