Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Birth and death are sources, it seems, out of which mortal ones derive their sensations of love and loss.", 6 April 2010
This review is from: The Infinities (Hardcover)
John Banville, in his first "literary" novel since his Booker Prize-winning novel The Sea, presents a most unusual novel which takes place in Arden, a large family home somewhere in Ireland or England, as the family gathers to pay homage to the dying patriarch, Adam Godley. Godley, who has had a stroke and is thought to be unconscious, is a mathematician renowned for having posited an "exquisite concept, time's primal particle, the golden egg of Brahma from the broken yolk of which flowed all creation...the infinities." Gathering round him are his much younger wife Ursula, who has a drinking problem; his son Adam and his beautiful actress wife Helen, who bears more than a little resemblance to Helen of Troy; and his strange daughter Petra in whom there is "something missing," a young woman who is working on an "encyclopedia of morbidity." Several servants and and guests are in attendance, and an assortment of Greek gods, invisible to all, are also very much present--disguising themselves as people and sneaking in and out of their personalities-and even beds.

Hermes, the son of Zeus, is the primary narrator, commenting on what is happening in the house and among the characters, while, at the same time, keeping an eye on his father, the randy Zeus. As Hermes explains, having himself been attracted to one of the women present, "You must understand, a god is not a gentleman and likes nothing better than to trifle with a lady's affections, but," he believes, "there are rules that apply even to a divinity, and it was incumbent on me to proceed with caution and deference, if the niceties of the game were to be preserved."

Through the additional points of view of Benny Grace, and, surprisingly, Adam Godley himself, the lives of the characters take shape. Adam Godley's past, his youth, his first marriage, his wife's suicide, and his marriage to Ursula are revisited, while the others all deal with complications in their love lives, made more complicated by the tinkering of the gods. When various characters disappear from the house for assignations in various bowers, wooded and otherwise, the novel begins to resemble A Midsummer Night's dream, and the huge thunderstorm which breaks before they can all return, brings the action to its climax.

The novel often resembles a farce, but it lacks the spontaneity that makes that genre so much fun. Instead, it feels as if every aspect of the novel has been composed and organized to the nth degree. At times it also feels like a novel of ideas, but those ideas are often murky. Clearly, he is commenting on life, and love, and death, all ideas which interest Hermes, since the gods share none of these experiences, yet the novel does not seem to jell. The characters' names suggest a modern allegory, but the disguises and the mischief of the gods complicate the characters' lives, and the reader cannot always be sure which characters are real and which are the incarnations of various gods. While the novel is sometimes fun to read, it seems stuck halfway between reality and infinity-not quite an "entertainment," a la Graham Greene with his mystery novels, but not quite the serious novel that his Booker Prize-winning novel The Sea represents. Not a comedy despite its absurdity, and a bit amorphous for serious literary fiction, this Banville novel is a puzzle in terms of the author's intentions but still fun to read. Mary Whipple

The Sea
Shroud :
Eclipse
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details

Item

Reviewer

Mary Whipple
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   

Location: New England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 187