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Eclipse Paperback – 5 Mar 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (5 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033048222X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330482226
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

"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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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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?
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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Sept. 2003
Format: 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.
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