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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars master of prose
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...
Published on 16 Jun. 2010 by Helen Hoffmann

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hung jury.
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...
Published on 5 Feb. 2012 by Bluecashmere.


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars master of prose, 16 Jun. 2010
By 
Helen Hoffmann "HHoffmann" (SE England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Hung jury., 5 Feb. 2012
By 
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the author's usual very high standard, in my opinion, 26 Feb. 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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.

A 17th-century Dutch picture, `Portrait of a Woman with Gloves', in Behrens' collection [that includes a Tintoretto, Fragonard, Watteau - all just in the hallway], exerts a strong attraction [`There is something in the way the woman regards me, the querulous, mute insistence of her eyes, which I can neither escape nor assuage. I squirm in front of her gaze. She requires of me some great effort, some tremendous feat of scrutiny and attention, of which I do not think I am capable. It is as if she were asking me to let her live.'] and so Freddie resolves to return to the house to steal it.

The extended description of the painting and its effect on the narrator is a really remarkable piece of writing that, unfortunately, the author only sporadically repeats. However, he is very good at revealing the feelings that Freddie, as boy and man, has for his parents and how these have indirectly affected his life. The Ireland that Freddie returns to is slightly too Guinnessy/Magnersy with its taxi drivers, police, old people, bar owners and regulars all teetering on the verge of the overtly comic.

For me the main problem with the book, set out through Freddie's eyes, is that his character is insufficiently substantial to carry everything that is piled on top of it. In this case I feel that the detachment of Banville's narrator from everyday life is a distinct weakness. From time to time the complexity of sentence construction and the prolixity subvert the narrative drive. There are a great many sentences and paragraphs, even pages, that one wants to re-read for their beauty but it is often necessary to do this simply to understand precisely what the author is getting at.

Freddie is selfish, self-centred, immoral and perhaps mentally-disturbed, but, since it is through his eyes that everything that we know about him, his relationships, motivations and actions, is filtered, maybe he is manipulating the reader in the same way that he and his counsel, and friend, Maolseachlainn Mac Giolla Gunna hope to manipulate the judge and jury. Few of the other characters, his mother and Anna being exceptions, do more than fill in gaps in the story.

The novel was short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize and I have to confess that Banville is a writer that I generally enjoy but, in this case, I was not overly impressed [7/10]. It is a relatively short book, just over 200 pages, and so will not take a long time to read - including looking up those meanings in the dictionary.
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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
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious opening narrative, rich with metaphors, 22 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Athena (Paperback)
Consider this a warning that I'm far from objective when it comes to John Banville and his incandescent yet gritty fiction. No one crafts sentences with more thrift or flourish. His art is to select just the right word to construct backdrops, frame characters, and set action into motion, simultaneously folding in parentheticals to add running commentary or to intimately ruminate on past events. Reading Banville is a slow exercise in the best sense. It takes time to appreciate the cadence of prose that rivals poetry, drama, and paintings. His descriptions are keen and bestow a vibrancy that is palatable. Athena is a paean to a seductress, a muse, a figment that utterly captivates until she "steps out of her frame". This is an earthy literary confection to be savored.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Evidence, 9 Mar. 2015
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
This is the first book by this author that I have read, but I shall most definitely be reading more. I’m delighted to find that this is followed by two more books featuring Freddie Montgomery, the narrator of this book – Ghosts, and Athena and I look forward greatly to reading them.

This book is the narration of the life of Freddie Montgomery, as seen through the eyes of Freddie himself. We are treated to his narrative, and what a narrative it is. It’s difficult to tell at first what kind of person Freddie is, but it doesn’t take too long before we can start to understand that he is a man who is tinged with a large dose of narcissism, and also has a fairly amoral outlook. Everything in the world, and all the people in the world, are there to make something of Freddie – otherwise, what use are they? His monologue focuses on the crime that has put him in prison, but throughout we are also treated to his thoughts on his life so far – his upbringing, his family, the circumstances that led to him returning home in the first place. A thoroughly unlikeable man, yet he sees himself as adding delight and meaning to the lives of others. A man of utter contradiction, what we read is his own view – and how close to the truth can we believe it to be?

This is an absolute delight to read; while the crime is unspeakable, and the man abhorrent, the book itself is utterly spellbinding. The narrative is hypnotic, the language is beautiful and yet approachable, layered with nuance. Freddie’s spiral into mid-life seems inexorable, yet it is totally the outcome of his own actions, and he appears completely unable to see that. I look forward immensely to reading Ghosts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime and Banishment, 8 July 2013
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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.

The plot of the book seems drawn from the real-life story of Irish socialite killer Macolm McArthur, an allusion to whom may have influenced Banville in his choice of 'Montgomery' as the surname for his central character (McArthur...Montgomery... geddit?).

Many have compared this book to the Russian classic 'Crime and Punishment', however the parallels between both books seem almost as mirror negatives of each other; whereas Raskolnikov's crime is planned and measured, Montgomery's actions are impulsive and improvised. Raskolnikov is racked by his conscience after his criminal act yet Montgomery remains relatively morally unmolested by his own actions. Even the comparative sizes of the books are polar opposites, 'The Book of Evidence' being a mercifully short read for the reason outlined at the start of this review.

Banville earns his 'master of prose' plaudit alone for the voicing of the Mongomery character. Evoking Gogol, he displaces the reader from his or her locus of rational morality to view the world through the eyes of someone who is deeply mentally ill.

Mongomery ultimately only feels shame for his actions, no other remorse seems present and no redemption is invoked. His sciopathic nature is chillingly revealed when he recounts the dying words of the young girl he has murdered. Initially, he thinks she is mumbling the word 'Tommy' over and over again. Later on, he releases with amused detachment that the word she was actually saying was 'Mammy'.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, gritty and compelling read., 15 Mar. 2007
By 
MrChance (Surrey, England.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Evidence - John Banville, 17 April 2013
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
I found this too self-consciously arch to enjoy, I'm afraid. This type of narrator I've met hundreds of times before. I found I was too conscious of Banville behind the writing, partly because I didn't remotely believe the characters "voice" (horrible term, but you know what I mean). In terms of suspense and plot, I know as much at the start as I did at the beginning, armed with the blurb. The language is good, of course, but that wasn't enough to make me feel I took anything worthwhile away from reading this. I feel a little ashamed, really!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this book!!, 9 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Book of Evidence (Paperback)
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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The Book of Evidence
The Book of Evidence by John Banville (Paperback - 5 Mar. 2010)
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