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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, challenging, rewarding.
Axel Vander tells us from the opening of this sensitive and tension-filled study of identity that he is not who he says he is. A respected scholar and professor at a California college, Vander is recognized for his thoughtful philosophical papers and books, especially on the nature of identity. Just before he leaves for a conference on Nietzsche in Turin, however, he...
Published on 3 Oct 2005 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Beautiful prose at times but a slow read
Published 3 months ago by imelda browne


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, challenging, rewarding., 3 Oct 2005
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Shroud (Paperback)
Axel Vander tells us from the opening of this sensitive and tension-filled study of identity that he is not who he says he is. A respected scholar and professor at a California college, Vander is recognized for his thoughtful philosophical papers and books, especially on the nature of identity. Just before he leaves for a conference on Nietzsche in Turin, however, he receives a letter from a young woman in Antwerp, questioning his own identity and asking to meet with him. As the novel unfolds, we come to know more about the "real" Axel Vander and more about his mysterious correspondent, the emotionally disturbed Cass Cleave.
Like Banville's narrators in other novels, the elderly Axel Vander of Shroud is unreliable and often dishonest, self-concerned but not self-aware. Consummately venal, he blithely takes advantage of whatever circumstances arise. Cass Cleave, the daughter of Alexander Cleave, the narrator of Banville's previous novel, Eclipse, has visions and seizures, and Vander regards her as mad, but she and Vander develop a relationship of almost religious significance. He is depraved and amoral, and she is a sick, avenging angel.
In Turin, where she joins Axel, Cass sees religious symbolism in common events, finding an ordinary breakfast a form of communion. Artworks, especially crucifixion scenes by artists from the various settings in which the novel takes place (Cranach, Bosch, Memling, and Van Eyck in the Low Countries; and Tintoretto, Mantegna, and Bellini in Italy) further develop the symbolism. Always present in the background, of course, is the Shroud of Turin, which may be the real burial cloth of Jesus--or may not be. Parallels and contrasts between Vander and Jesus abound.
Banville's novel is intense, highly compressed in its development of overlapping themes, and filled with suspense, both real and intellectual. Every plot detail expands his themes of identity and selfhood, and our desire to be remembered after our deaths. Banville's prose is exquisite, creating mystery by introducing details at a snail's pace, conveying attitude, and acutely observing sensuous details and physical reactions. He juxtaposes unlikely events from different times to convey information, providing voluptuous descriptions which contain both an idea and its antithesis simultaneously. This is a challenging and fascinating novel, beautifully crafted and rewarding on every level.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book. Number 2 in trilogy., 1 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Shroud (Kindle Edition)
Best book I've read in ages. This is a trilogy though each book stands alone. Highly recommend all three. Amazing wonderful and so clever. I think shroud just wins, covering a lot of heavy duty themes about personal and cultural identity in page turner fashion with lyrical language that never bores or gets overdone. Banville is my new favourite writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars books, 2 April 2014
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This review is from: Shroud (Paperback)
Book was in good condition and thrilled to know it had come from Durham , my home town , thanks also to Hemingway books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 27 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Shroud (Paperback)
Beautiful prose at times but a slow read
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This novel should have been titled "Shame", 20 April 2006
By 
Stephen Schwartz (Ithaca, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shroud (Paperback)
It really is mostly about shame. John Banville is a master of English prose. His writing has a power and intensity, and originality that is matched by no other living writer that I know of. All the more shame that his wonderful talent is wasted on this bloated, fatuous, ugly novel. The main character "Axel" is an old, drunken, lecherous has-been scholar. The romantic "other" is a hare-brained, weird, humorless woman. (Indeed the entire novel is utterly humorless.) And so on and on.... Nobody is likable or interesting; they are just pathetic. Banville is unsurpassed in creating characters, living and riveting characters. But who would want to spend their precious hours with these creeps that he creates in Shroud? Not I, although I finished the book.

Maybe I just don't get it. Undoubtedly I don't get it. I don't want to get it. I don't care. Nothing about Shroud made me want to get it.

I liked The Untouchable by Banville. That was a wonderful book. This one stinks.

By the way, this book will really tune up your vocabulary skills. There are more odd words here than in a spelling bee.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, disturbing, unforgettable book, 13 Jun 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Shroud (Paperback)
Shroud is an impressive and chilling piece of art; Banville's prose is hypnotic and the characters are extremely well portrayed, yet this is not an easy read. I rate it among my very favourite, next to Faulkner and Updike.
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Shroud
Shroud by John Banville (Paperback - 5 Mar 2010)
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