Sea Level

“This beautifully worked novel is told from the vantage point of a man who has reached the end of everything: his married life; his affair with a shrewd erotic mistress; his career, even the ends of the earth.”
—Alexandra Enders in THE NEW YORK TIMES

“What I love best about Roger King’s novel is that it’s the work of a sophisticated man who’s lived in the world…He knows things, this writer, and they’re not things you learn in the library, about men and women and sons and fathers. Sea Level is subtle, painful and resonantly real.”
—Rosellen Brown, author of CIVIL WARS

“Roger King is a novelist of great range and depth. There is a stirring, pure compassion in his work, and a stubborn pursuit of the heart‘s mysteries. He rushes through an exotic damaged world, to arrive at the unexplainable silences within each of us. He has made a rich beautiful book.”
—Charlie Smith, author of CRYSTAL RIVER




Sea Level is a brilliant and profoundly affecting novel about a man in mid-life struggling to come to terms with his father’s death, the women in his life, and the pain and puzzle of human existence. Moving with extraordinary skill and beauty across continents, between past and present, from inner reality to outer event, it is the story of Bill Bender, a sensual, troubled, imperfect man, and his fraying connections to the people he loves, his work as an international do-gooder, and his London past.

From Pakistan to Polynesia, his drama is enacted against a fascinating international background with a powerfully realized cast of characters. Among them are Han, Bender’s fiercely amoral Chinese lover, a woman of great erotic power; Akira, his eccentric Japanese colleague, crazed by whisky and his inability to comprehend the doublespeak of foreign aid; the elderly, ailing Mr. Yamada, embodying impenetrable cultural mysteries; and Bender’s father, a self-effacing London milkman of limited horizons, whose death shakes him in ways that surprise him, and in whom he comes uneasily to recognize a reflection of himself.


critical praise

“This dense, fully conceived novel…one senses the impressive breadth and depth of Mr. King’s intelligence.”


“A work at once exotic and mannered, calm and ravenous. Roger King is a terrific writer.”



Roger King's photograph of Chitrali villagers on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


“Pithy, intelligent.”



“Ambitious and intelligent.”



“Elegaic and intelligent.”





“Sea Level is a rich masterful novel about the hazards of romantic love, the complicated tapestry of filial love, the meaning of work, and the self-delusion and hypocrisies that make the world go round. King’s setting is the wide world–Pakistan, England, Polynesia, a suburb of Washington–and the vast spaces of the human heart. I thought of Graham Greene and Philip Roth too.”