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Eclipse Paperback – 5 Mar 2010


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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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 101,584 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.

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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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. van Gelderen on 6 Oct 2002
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Oct 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was attracted to this book after reading The Sea and feeling the need to better understand this obviously talented author. Eclipse was a fine choice because in many ways its structure is like The Sea. I came away benefiting from a better understanding of Mr. Banville's style and seeing more clearly the methods he used in The Sea to make that book rise above Eclipse.

Anyone who loves beautiful language, vivid imagery and introspection will find this book rewarding. Those who prefer action, lots of plot developments and variety should look elsewhere.

Eclipse is a fine choice for a title of this book -- evoking the many eclipses in Alexander Cleave's life. He's not satisfied with his career as an actor . . . both because he doesn't seem to be able to act any more . . . and because acting keeps him from being himself (whatever that is). In addition, Alexander's relationships with his family are strained, to say the least. Certainly, these could be described as being in eclipse as well. To help get his head together, he goes back to his family home . . . which hasn't been kept up. It's in eclipse, too. While there, he experiences an astronomical eclipse to add to the symmetry. The old home is overcrowded though, with memories, ghosts and visitors. Alexander complains about this to his wife on the telephone, and she responds, "You are your own ghost." It's very Shakespearean. Macbeth seems to be lurking just around the corner.

But after an eclipse, the light does return. If that hope has meaning for you, you'll enjoy Cleave's journey.

Here's a passage of Cleave's musings that will give you a sense of the book: "Life, life is always a surprise. Just when you think you have got the hang of it, have learned your part to perfection, someone in the cast will take it into her head to start improvising, and the whole . . . production will be thrown into disorder."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Jun 2012
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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