Eclipse Paperback – 5 Mar 2010
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John Banville's novels have a reputation for their linguistic flair and carefully observed description. His latest novel, Eclipse, is no exception in this regard. It tells the story of Alexander Cleave, a dramatic actor with "the famous eyes whose flash of fire could penetrate to the very back row of the stalls". Cleave has however recently experienced an actor's ultimate fear--"he died, corpsed in the middle of the last act and staggered off the stage in sweaty ignominy just when the action was coming to its climax".
The impact upon Cleave of the collapse of his acting career is devastating and leads him to reassess his entire life. Looking back on his childhood, he realises that "acting was inevitable. From earliest days life for me was a perpetual state of being watched". Cleave flees to the house in the country where he grew up and, as he sinks into a depressed torpor, he realises that the house is inhabited by both ghosts from the past, as well as more furtive and tangible presences from the moment. Visited by his anguished wife Lydia, and obsessing on his fractured relationship with his academically gifted but disturbed daughter Cass, Cleave reflects with great emotional intensity on "the terror of the self, of letting the self go so far free that one night it might break away".
Eclipse is a beautifully written but dark and introspective novel. It often almost completely dispenses with plot, as Banville (author of Booker short-listed The Book of Evidence to The Untouchable) probes deeper into Cleave's disturbed reflection on his life, his family, his past and his present, all of which culminates in a desolate and unexpected ending. Eclipse is an elegiac, mournful novel, linguistically brilliant but somewhat unrelenting. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Like Nabokov, Banville captures the vivid aesthetic pleasures of quotidian reality in the most satisfying ways." "-The New York Times Book Review
""An impressive, effective novel, bracing as a nightmare."-"Chicago Tribune
""Mr. Banville is that rare writer who can pack all five senses into a declarative sentence."-"The Wall Street Journal
"["Eclipse"] captures in its pages a felt life so dense, so swift in its paranoid momentum, that the whole idea of the novel as a window to the self seems viable again.... This is as true as things ever get."-Sven Birkerts, "Esquire
"[Banville] has an uncanny ability to pinpoint and record sensations rarely brought to consciousness. . . . "Eclipse" wakes us up to things we should have noticed." -"San Francisco Chronicle"
Like Nabokov, Banville captures the vivid aesthetic pleasures of quotidian reality in the most satisfying ways. " The New York Times Book Review
" An impressive, effective novel, bracing as a nightmare. "Chicago Tribune
" Mr. Banville is that rare writer who can pack all five senses into a declarative sentence. "The Wall Street Journal
["Eclipse"] captures in its pages a felt life so dense, so swift in its paranoid momentum, that the whole idea of the novel as a window to the self seems viable again . This is as true as things ever get. Sven Birkerts, "Esquire
[Banville] has an uncanny ability to pinpoint and record sensations rarely brought to consciousness. . . . "Eclipse" wakes us up to things we should have noticed. "San Francisco Chronicle"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Classic Bannville - great powers of description and deep pathos.Published 14 months ago by Pat Morrissey
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... Read more
It seems mean to rate this as OK when the writing is extraordinary, but the protagonist exhausts the reader. Whew!Published on 23 Dec. 2013 by Nola Turner
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. Read morePublished on 3 July 2008 by H. Dumpty
I was attracted to this book after reading The Sea and feeling the need to better understand this obviously talented author. Read morePublished on 27 Oct. 2007 by Donald Mitchell
I was attracted to this book after reading The Sea and feeling the need to better understand this obviously talented author. Read morePublished on 15 April 2006 by Donald Mitchell
John Banville has written a humane and beautiful story in "Eclipse." This story tells the tragic tale of a man, intelligent, preposterous and vulnerable, who in attempting to... Read morePublished on 15 Dec. 2001
There are many things one could say about Banville's texts: their implicit reliance on contemporary literary theory/ philosophy is too coarse; their preoccupation with the grander... Read morePublished on 19 Mar. 2001
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... Read morePublished on 11 Dec. 2000