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Birchwood Paperback – 6 Aug 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (6 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330372327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330372329
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

" This is one of the most startling of the century's varied achievements in Irish writing."
-- Seamus Deane
" John Banville is one of the greatest masters of the English language."
-- "The Scotsman"
" "Birchwoo"d represents a watershed in contemporary Irish writing.."
-- Colm Toibin

"This is one of the most startling of the century's varied achievements in Irish writing."
--Seamus Deane
"John Banville is one of the greatest masters of the English language."
--"The Scotsman"
""Birchwoo"d represents a watershed in contemporary Irish writing.."
--Colm Toibin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

‘This is one of the most startling of the century’s varied achievements in Irish writing’ Seamus Deane

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book has very clear echoes of Proust, both in the writing style and in the sense of nostalgia that pervades the story of aristocratic decline. The references are clear and deliberate - in the very first chapter, Banville's narrator refers to his fragments of memory as "madeleines" and talks of his "search for time misplaced."

Birchwood is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. While the writing style is reminiscent of Proust in its dreamy beauty, it clips along at a much faster pace, as does the sometimes bizarre plot of childhood resentments, exploding grandmothers, running off to join the circus, searching for a long-lost sister, etc. Also there's a detachment from the destruction that comes to Birchwood, a sense that it's inevitable and even deserved, a strong context of the social unrest in Ireland at the time.

The writing was brilliant from the first page to the last, and made me want to read a lot more of Banville's work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In this novella, Banville uses a modified stream-of-consciousness style that immediately picks that drops the reader into a complicated family with dark secrets living on a disintegrating Irish estate. The central character is Gabriel, the only son and heir to Birchwood, who lives there with his father, whose violent fits of temper are slowly driving his mother insane; his grandmother, his senile grandfather; his aunt; and his cousin, his aunt's son.

The first part of the novella focuses on Gabriel's childhood, as he grows, he stumbles on a mystery surrounding his birth, and he finally comes to believe that he has a missing twin sister and runs away from home to find her. The second part is devoted to his adventures away from home.

Primarily the story deals with time and memory with the author jumping backwards and forwards with both, magic realism and a simple but effective writing style makes this novella worth reading even if it does get confusing and over-elaborated at times.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Banville's prose is consistently excellent: strong imagery, great clarity - poetic. It's a pleasure to read the sentences. But, for me, as with his "The Untouchable", and unlike Granny Godkin, the story itself never ignited. The tale of eccentric, aristocratic decline amidst a disintegrating mansion house might have been better handled by a Shirley Jackson or Barbara Comyns I suspect.

There's just something a little bit snooty and detached about Banville's style in my opinion, and his focus never quite seems to the purpose. I'm sure other readers will regard the meandering whimsy charming - and I'm not saying there aren't things to admire.
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Format: Paperback
I only recently discovered John Banville after reading The Book of Evidence, Copernicus and the Infinities, and soon ordered everything else that he has written. I rarely write reviews for books, but Birchwood had me so entranced in its lyrical spell that I wanted to tell eveyone interested in great literature about this little gem.

With its father-son relationship, insanity and violence, Birchwood reminds me of Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel. With a little less gore and mutilations (but certainly not without them). The language is equally breathtaking so that even death captivates. It's a world of magical realism set among circus folk but a world deprived of laughter; there are no happy clowns here throwing pies in your face - the tone is sinister and the clowns malevolent. The language spellbinding. 175 pages that you don't want to end.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another superb piece of literature from John Banville.
In some passages the use of words borders on poetic.
The story has great pace and feeling.
Superb!
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