Though I'm loath to use words such as masterpiece about anything at all, it seems reasonable to resort to hyperbole here if only to get peoples attention and earn Mr. Banville some money. If you've read anything by this author then you'll have a pretty good idea where this novel is going but the themes and use of language are here employed with a proximity to objective, Schillerian perfection never matched before or since. This is one of the very few books I continually foist upon all my friends in the hope that they will recognise its wonderful malignancy and sour humour and palpable, impressionist nuance. No-one gets it. Maybe it's an Irish thing. Guardian reviews constantly cite Banville's extrordinary use of language but this (and all the others, although Ghosts is probably taking advantage of the publisher's flushed benevolence) is more than an excercise or dank adventure in prose. It is seeped in the traditions of Joyce, Beckett, Nabakov, your own life. Start here and then trace the lives of the characters through the oblique variations in subsequent novels. The lives of the Enlightenment physicists are gorgeous too, Kepler in particular.