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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gently moving introspective story, beautifully written
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...
Published on 6 Oct 2002 by A. van Gelderen

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "...woe sat like lumpy satchels on our backs..."
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...
Published on 30 Jun 2012 by Eileen Shaw


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gently moving introspective story, beautifully written, 6 Oct 2002
By 
A. van Gelderen "Anna van Gelderen" (the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Eclipse (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "...woe sat like lumpy satchels on our backs...", 30 Jun 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Eclipse (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?

Also, we want him to be the protagonist, the actor, not John Banville writing in his study or garden. If he would be his actor we could give him the benefit of the doubt - these strivings for portent and imageless image are damping down the inspiration he needs to leave himself behind and engage in the magic of being someone else. To write, one must leave onself - it doesn't matter where, and become other. Yet he seems unable to stop himself from looming. The only time he allows himself to be absent is in a dream. A voyeuristic dream of being a torturer - and here he grants himself the ability to be absent from himself, as if drawing back his skirts like a lady about to step in ordure.

Too much dreaming, too many ghosts, too much flim-flam Mr Banville.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral., 15 Sep 2003
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Eclipse (Paperback)
In this beautifully realized and complex book, Banville blurs the edges between a man's interior and exterior worlds. He draws the reader in at the same time that he holds him at arm's length and creates a book both realistic and surrealistic. In many ways this resembles a memoir more than a novel, and it's a haunting story of a man's search for himself. Virtually all the "action" in this novel takes place inside the head of Alexander Cleave, and the "story," such as it is, emerges at a snail's pace. An actor who has "dried" onstage, Cleave has escaped to his childhood home to come to terms with his inner self and try to deal with his worry about his disturbed daughter Cass, with whom he has had no communication for months. In the midst of a breakdown, he cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, acting and action. He sees ghosts, spends a great deal of time sleeping and dreaming, and shadows townspeople at random, living their lives vicariously.
His alterego is Quirke, the sloppy caretaker, and his equally untidy daughter Lily. Creatures of the moment, the Quirkes are not at all introspective, indulging their basic desires without thinking about them and living entirely in the commonplace, the ordinary--they buy groceries, do superficial cleaning, go to the pub, read magazines. Only Lily's melancholy, which Cleave also associates with his daughter, suggests that she may have a nascent inner life.
If this sounds dull and abstract, it is, in a way. There is very little plot in the traditional sense, and the events that do occur are filtered through the mind of Cleave, who, though very self-conscious, is not self-aware. We do eventually find out what's happened to his daughter, we understand why the Quirkes are important, and we eventually see Cleave achieving an epiphany of sorts. But it is a measure of Cleave's remoteness that the turning point of the book is not an event over which he exerts any control, but a solar eclipse--the convergence of dark and light, shadow and substance, distance and connection. Still, this is a book full of unique insights and transcendent observations, with a main character who, in his earnest attempts to come to terms with the world, bears much in common with us all. Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back on Life as Darkness Intrudes, 27 Oct 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars From The Untouchable to The Unreadable, 11 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Eclipse (Hardcover)
Eclipse is without doubt John Banville's most disappointing novel, particularly given that it was preceded by the excellent "The Untouchable" - in much the same way as his brilliant "Book of Evidence" was followed by the awful "Ghosts".
I've been puzzled by the generally very positive responses to this novel. Many reviewers focus on Banville's ability to craft language - but I found the novel's language, with its focus on representation and reality, extremely pretentious, reading at times like an undergraduate's essay on structuralism. The characterisation is very poor, with the narrative tone ranging from a kind of stereotypical Olivier to the predictable Banville "voice".
Being about an actor who has died on stage, the novel abounds in predictable and irritating allusions to Hamlet, Beckett, etc. - which do nothing to enrich the novel. Similarly, it has been described as a humourous novel - but the jokes are not so much funny as sycophantic, flattering the reader's vanity by sharing clever allusions to high art: the book struck me as a kind of elaborate Mason's handshake in this and other respects.
In Eclipse, we are constantly told that passion, intelligence, feeling and wit are being described - but I never really saw any evidence of it, finding the book instead like a series of signposts to nowhere in particular. My views are not shared by many reviewers, but I do not recommend this novel. If you've never read Banville before, then start with the Book of Evidence, Doctor Copernicus, or The Untouchable. And if, like me, you've read and enjoyed Banville before, I'd recommend that you wait for his next novel - it's due out next year...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, 15 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Eclipse (Paperback)
A challenging read, but fascinating study
I found it difficult to concentrate on a rather demanding situation
It was very popular in our book group and othr members recommended other books by this author
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Cleave Trilogy Bk 1, 23 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Eclipse (Paperback)
It seems mean to rate this as OK when the writing is extraordinary, but the protagonist exhausts the reader. Whew!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back on Life as Darkness Intrudes, 15 April 2006
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Eclipse (Paperback)
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most impressive literary fiction of 2000, 5 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Eclipse (Hardcover)
To say that Banville has achieved his masterpiece is quite a claim, but one that I feel in no way over-estimates the sheer magnificence of this novel. Hypnotic, beautiful and humorous by turn, Eclipse asserts Banville's position as one of the most essential figures working in English today.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 3 July 2008
By 
Humpty Dumpty (Wall St, Upton Snodsbury) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Eclipse (Paperback)
I agree with "A Customer"'s review of Dec 2000. I found this pretty unreadable, which was a big disappoinment given how much I had enjoyed Copernicus. The style was very mannered and the pace too slow, and the voice of Banville which constantly intruded into the narrative was annoyingly smug.

I fear, from the evidence of this novel and a couple of interviews I've read, that money and success have gone to the author's head a la Jeanette Winterson; a flop or two may be needed to bring him back to earth.
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