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Eclipse [Paperback]

John Banville
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2010

Alexander Cleave, actor, has left his career and his family behind and banished himself to his childhood home. He wants to retire from life, but finds this impossible in a house brimming with presences, some ghostly, some undeniably human. Memories, anxiety for the future and more particularly for his beloved but troubled daughter, conspire to distract him from his dreaming retirement.

This humane and beautifully written story tells the tragic tale of a man, intelligent, preposterous and vulnerable, who in attempting to bring the performance to a close finds himself travelling inevitably towards a devastating denouement.

‘This unsparing, compassionate, humane book demonstrates again that Banville is in a class of his own’ Spectator

‘A contemporary fable of piercing sadness and melancholy beauty. . . This poetic novel deals with archetypal themes as well as painful truths about parental inadequacy and the limitations of love’ Sunday Telegraph

‘In Eclipse Banville has created another important, challenging fiction. The book is ornately written, heartless in an honest fashion, profoundly interrogative of ideas of identity and, above all, spectacularly beautiful. It is, in a way that so many contemporary novels are not, a work of art’ Observer


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (5 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033048222X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330482226
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Product Description

Amazon Review

John Banville's novels have a reputation for their linguistic flair and carefully observed description. His latest novel, Eclipse, is no exception in this regard. It tells the story of Alexander Cleave, a dramatic actor with "the famous eyes whose flash of fire could penetrate to the very back row of the stalls". Cleave has however recently experienced an actor's ultimate fear--"he died, corpsed in the middle of the last act and staggered off the stage in sweaty ignominy just when the action was coming to its climax".

The impact upon Cleave of the collapse of his acting career is devastating and leads him to reassess his entire life. Looking back on his childhood, he realises that "acting was inevitable. From earliest days life for me was a perpetual state of being watched". Cleave flees to the house in the country where he grew up and, as he sinks into a depressed torpor, he realises that the house is inhabited by both ghosts from the past, as well as more furtive and tangible presences from the moment. Visited by his anguished wife Lydia, and obsessing on his fractured relationship with his academically gifted but disturbed daughter Cass, Cleave reflects with great emotional intensity on "the terror of the self, of letting the self go so far free that one night it might break away".

Eclipse is a beautifully written but dark and introspective novel. It often almost completely dispenses with plot, as Banville (author of Booker short-listed The Book of Evidence to The Untouchable) probes deeper into Cleave's disturbed reflection on his life, his family, his past and his present, all of which culminates in a desolate and unexpected ending. Eclipse is an elegiac, mournful novel, linguistically brilliant but somewhat unrelenting. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. His first book, Long Lankin, was published in 1970. His other books are Nightspawn , Birchwood, Doctor Copernicus (which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1976), Kepler (which was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1981), The Newton Letter (which was filmed for Channel 4), Mefisto, The Book of Evidence (shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize and winner of the 1989 Guinness Peat Aviation Award), Ghosts, Athena, The Untouchable, Shroud and The Sea. He has received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is the first novel by John Banville I read and after finishing it I immediately ordered "The book of Evidence" and "Ghost", so you can safely bet that this is going to be glowing review.
The story is moving but unspectacular: Alexander Cleave is an aging actor who has suddenly lost it. For no reason that he can think of he unexpectedly finds himself in cinemas crying his heart out during the afternoon showings and he forgets his lines when he is on stage. He retreats to his late mother's house, hoping to get some peace of mind there and somehow find himself again. But instead of peace and quiet he finds that ghosts and living people have taken up residence with him. He is also beset by memories of his troubled daughter. However, it is not so much the outcome of all this that matters as the processes in Cleave's mind, his dreams, his perplexities, his realizations, his fears.
Banville writes beautifully, exquisitely. His prose is a blend of evocativeness and precision, his metaphors are just right. An example: "Memory is peculiar in the fierce hold with which it will fix the most insignificant-seeming scenes. Whole tracts of my life have fallen away like a cliff in the sea, yet I cling to seeming trivia with pop-eyed tenacity (p. 74)." And another one: "It has always seemed to me a disgrace that the embarrasments of early life should continue to smart throughout adulthood with undiminshed intensity. Is it not enough that our youthful blunders made us cringe at the time, when we were at our tenderest, but must stay with us beyond cure, burn marks ready to flare up painfully at the merest touch (p. 83)?"
This is not a novel of plot and action, but a gently moving, meditative, introspective story, where a lot is left unsaid and merely hinted at and for the reader to find out. Only very good writers can pull that off succesfully. John Banville is such a very good writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "...woe sat like lumpy satchels on our backs..." 30 Jun 2012
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
At an early point in this novel Banville claims that he is trying to blend poetry and fiction into another artistic form. Given that it is a novel, of course, it may be that his narrative persona is making that claim. Nevertheless for long stretches of prose he succeeds in blending forms of beautiful language one into another by having epiphanies and hauntings all over the place - one can hardly move for them. Quite often they interrupt moments when the protagonist (an actor of all things) might be expected to be paying attention elsewhere. One of these moments interrupts a telephone call from his wife. He is talking to his wife when he sees through the kitchen doorway a tall, young woman turning from the range: "abruptly handing something, it looked like, to what seemed a seated child. Slowly I set the receiver down on the arm of the sofa... I was given only that glimpse - the woman, if it was a woman, turning, the arm extending, the child, if it was a child - and then it was gone... I walked softly out to the kitchen and stood and looked about. No one was there..."

All this time his wife is on the other end of the line waiting for him to come back. It's hardly surprising that she snaps at him and severs the connection. Maybe he was joking when he dreamt that fusion of poetry and prose. Maybe he would rather be a jester or a fool than someone writing in order to engage, entertain or communicate (though this may be a dirty word in his lexicon) with his readership, even in absentia? No doubt he finds these epiphanies raise the tone. Personally I don't. They simply fill the novel with faint traces, outlines that never coalesce; often beautiful, of course, but beauty isn't everything in a novel, is it?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral. 15 Sep 2003
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In this beautifully realized and complex book, Banville blurs the edges between a man's interior and exterior worlds. He draws the reader in at the same time that he holds him at arm's length and creates a book both realistic and surrealistic. In many ways this resembles a memoir more than a novel, and it's a haunting story of a man's search for himself. Virtually all the "action" in this novel takes place inside the head of Alexander Cleave, and the "story," such as it is, emerges at a snail's pace. An actor who has "dried" onstage, Cleave has escaped to his childhood home to come to terms with his inner self and try to deal with his worry about his disturbed daughter Cass, with whom he has had no communication for months. In the midst of a breakdown, he cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, acting and action. He sees ghosts, spends a great deal of time sleeping and dreaming, and shadows townspeople at random, living their lives vicariously.
His alterego is Quirke, the sloppy caretaker, and his equally untidy daughter Lily. Creatures of the moment, the Quirkes are not at all introspective, indulging their basic desires without thinking about them and living entirely in the commonplace, the ordinary--they buy groceries, do superficial cleaning, go to the pub, read magazines. Only Lily's melancholy, which Cleave also associates with his daughter, suggests that she may have a nascent inner life.
If this sounds dull and abstract, it is, in a way. There is very little plot in the traditional sense, and the events that do occur are filtered through the mind of Cleave, who, though very self-conscious, is not self-aware.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The Cleave Trilogy Bk 1
It seems mean to rate this as OK when the writing is extraordinary, but the protagonist exhausts the reader. Whew!
Published 3 months ago by Nola Turner
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I agree with "A Customer"'s review of Dec 2000. I found this pretty unreadable, which was a big disappoinment given how much I had enjoyed Copernicus. Read more
Published on 3 July 2008 by Humpty Dumpty
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back on Life as Darkness Intrudes
I was attracted to this book after reading The Sea and feeling the need to better understand this obviously talented author. Read more
Published on 27 Oct 2007 by Donald Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back on Life as Darkness Intrudes
I was attracted to this book after reading The Sea and feeling the need to better understand this obviously talented author. Read more
Published on 15 April 2006 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Ceaselessly, introspective narrative.
John Banville has written a humane and beautiful story in "Eclipse." This story tells the tragic tale of a man, intelligent, preposterous and vulnerable, who in attempting to... Read more
Published on 15 Dec 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars The Danger of the Sublime
There are many things one could say about Banville's texts: their implicit reliance on contemporary literary theory/ philosophy is too coarse; their preoccupation with the grander... Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars From The Untouchable to The Unreadable
Eclipse is without doubt John Banville's most disappointing novel, particularly given that it was preceded by the excellent "The Untouchable" - in much the same way as... Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most impressive literary fiction of 2000
To say that Banville has achieved his masterpiece is quite a claim, but one that I feel in no way over-estimates the sheer magnificence of this novel. Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2000
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