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The Book of Evidence [Paperback]

John Banville
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 Mar 2010

Freddie Montgomery has committed two crimes. He stole a small Dutch master from a wealthy family friend, and he murdered a chambermaid who caught him in the act.

He has little to say about the dead girl. He killed her, he says, because he was physically capable of doing so. It made perfect sense to smash her head in with a hammer. What he cannot understand, and would desperately like to know, is why he was so moved by an unattributed portrait of a middle-aged woman that he felt compelled to steal it . . .

‘Banville has excelled himself in a flawlessly flowing prose whose lyricism, patrician irony and aching sense of loss are reminiscent of LolitaObserver

The Book of Evidence is a major work of fiction in which every suave moment calmly detonates to show the murderous gleam within. Banville writes a dangerous and clear-running prose and has a grim gift of seeing people’s souls’ Don DeLillo

‘One of the most important writers now at work in English – a key thinker, in fact, in fiction’ London Review of Books

‘Remarkable. . . If all crime novels were like this one, there would no longer be the need for a genre’ Ruth Rendell

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The Book of Evidence + Eclipse + Ghosts
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (5 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330371878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330371872
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,995 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


" Here is an astonishing, disturbing little novel that might have been coughed up from hell." - "The New York Times Book Review"" Ireland' s finest contemporary novelist." - "The Economist"" The Book of Evidence is a major new work of fiction in which every suave moment calmly detonates to show the murderous gleam within." - Don DeLillo

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, Ghosts, Athena, The Untouchable, Eclipse, 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
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars master of prose 16 Jun 2010
Banville writes exquisitely. The sentences are invariably arresting and his use of language and imagery is magnificent. It's a very dark novel; so dark that I had to put it down for a few days at a time in order for the enormity and the relentless misery of the protagonist's situation to sink in. But if you allow yourself time for his prose to sink in, you will return to Banville's work again and again. Once finished, it's worth reading all over again. A very compelling novel indeed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this book!! 9 Aug 2010
You must read this book Mr Banville out shines himself each time a read a book written by him i hated finising this book. I wanted it to go on and on. I cannot rate this book high enough at last we have writer equal to Yeats Synge and many more!!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars obviously neglected masterpiece 9 Jun 1999
By A Customer
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hung jury. 5 Feb 2012
This book has excited great enthusiasm from reviewers but for me the parts - or at least some of them - seem greater than the whole. It starts with some wonderfully sharp, original and focused writing, compelling attention, admiration and the desire to read on. Throughout there are patches of evocation which transcend areas that are much looser. The opening to Part 2 is again beautifully written and again promises to lift the narrative from the rather ordinary into which the latter half of Part 1 has slumped. I'm not at all sure that the central character is of sufficient interest, so that felicities of style come to be valued for their own sake rather than for their role in developing a complex psychology. The ending seems at best arbitrary and the secondary characters are close to stereotypes. Banville can certainly write and the concept promises much. However, at the end I wondered what it all really added up to. I was left with the sense of something approaching a lost opportunity.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, gritty and compelling read. 15 Mar 2007
This is my second Banville, after `The Untouchable', and third if I include `Christine Falls' written under his nom de plume - Benjamin Black. Much comment has been made regarding JB's style and the need for the reader to have a dictionary/thesaurus close at hand to unearth the meaning of a word here and there. I am no exception in that regard; whilst I read widely I do not consider myself to be particularly well-read and yet enjoyed looking up the odd word/expression and found it enhanced the meaning. I also suspect he is having a bit of fun: an example being the description of Montgomery's post-coital state as being `...balanic, ataraxic bliss...'

Lots of words would describe the story: dark, gritty, compelling . All somewhat clichéd and unbanvillian for which I apologise, but a great read nevertheless.

I am delighted to have discovered this author and have no hesitation in giving this book, along with `The Untouchable' a 5-star rating and am looking forward to his others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
John Banville's books are so full of words that it is useful to have a dictionary on hand to check the less familiar, such as `balanic', `ataraxic', `ototomic', `accidie', gleet' and `stravaige'. The narrator, Freddie Montgomery [Frederick Charles St John Vanderveld Montgomery], writing from prison where he is held on a charge of murder, requests a dictionary early on so as to ensure that his usage is correct.

The story of Freddie's life, leading to how he ended up in prison, is revealed slowly with flashbacks in a series of jigsaw pieces. However, as well as being prolix the narrator is offering us his version of events, so his story cannot be taken on trust.

Freddie is a research statistician who was well-respected within his field and worked for a decade in America. Then he gave it all up to return to Europe with his wife, Daphne, to live in a number of locations in the Mediterranean. He lets his funds slip through his fingers and naively obtains a loan that, rather to his surprise, must be repaid. Whilst his wife and family are kept as hostages, he returns to Ireland in search of the necessary funds.

There are some wonderful descriptions, such as when Freddie returns to see his mother after 10 years and finds the house derelict with his father's collection of paintings sold off to Helmut `Binkie' Behrens, to support his mother's idea of raising Connemara ponies as pets for `Japs and Germans'. Since this was the hoped-for source of money, Freddie visits `Whitewater', a surprisingly insecure mansion, to see whether he can convince Behrens and his daughter, Anna, to return some or all of his inheritance but finds that the works have already been sold.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
Based on a true story, this is a fascinating exploration of the mind of a murderer and his world. Irish writer John Banville is a brilliant stylist,and in this novel he combines... Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. H. Bretts
4.0 out of 5 stars A Murder in Ireland
I read only two John Banville (JB) novels before this one. I loved his Booker Prize winner "The Sea" and his earlier "The Untouchable" about Anthony Blunt, the UK's infamous and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by P. A. Doornbos
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously overrated
I can't understand why people are so enthusiastic about this one. Let's get the question of style out of the way ('Banville writes exquisitely'): good, even exquisite, writing is... Read more
Published 6 months ago by William Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars A really good read.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Banville's sense of mood is legendary. His descriptions of places and people are so vivid Its almost like being there.
Published 7 months ago by Mr. Philip Naessens
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime and Banishment
Banville's book is a deeply unpleasant read, not because it's badly written, but because it is narrated in the first-person by a deeply unpleasant character. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mark Sean Tynan
4.0 out of 5 stars fantastic?
Yet another great read from Banville. Beautiful prose which allows the language to carry the story being told by a murderer sitting in his prison cell. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Case69
2.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Evidence - John Banville
I found this too self-consciously arch to enjoy, I'm afraid. This type of narrator I've met hundreds of times before. Read more
Published 12 months ago by RachelWalker
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but beautifully written
Banville's prose is strangely compelling and takes you on a journey into the mind of someone who could be described as a psychopath. Or is he?
Published 15 months ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars The book of Evidence
Unputdownable. Although I am totally biased as I love John Banville's work (along with his alias of Benjamin Black), I would strongly recommend this book. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Isobel N
4.0 out of 5 stars Early work
This is an early Banville yet it shows the Banville elements which were to emerge in later works. Told, as usual, from the main characters thoughts it pulls the reader in to his... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Headintheclouds
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