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The Infinities Hardcover – Unabridged, 4 Sep 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (4 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330450247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330450249
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.8 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 984,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Full of dark humour and written with a deft eye for detail.' -- GQ

'The turning of an omniscient, omnipotent narrator into a god has...been fulfilled so well.'
-- TheBookbag.co.uk

Review

'The turning of an omniscient, omnipotent narrator into a god has...been fulfilled so well.'

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read almost all of John Banville's work, going back to Kepler in 1990, so I thought I knew him as a novelist, but this is a very strange new book indeed. Narrated by the god Hermes, "The Infinities" concerns a house in Ireland where the mathematician Adam Godley lies dying. So far so good - a family with tensions and dramas, much like those in The Sea, with that weird divine twist on the story-telling.

But almost nothing in this book is as it seems. This is not our own universe - it is one where hydrogen fusion powers everything, where Goethe is a footnote in history, and where Wallace, not Darwin, is the discoverer of the theory of evolution. The gods continually intervene in the action, which is sometimes frustrating: just as you begin to get into the narrative, Hermes buts in yet again, leaving me sometimes wanting to yell at him 'shut up'. Then the dying man himself begins contributing to the narrative from his coma, and then the reader is left to doubt whether the 'gods' are actually a figment of his fraying imagination. It is utterly disconcerting and doesn't make for a comfortable read.

This is a highly experimental narrative and I can imagine many readers getting halfway through and just giving up in disgust! The ending is also extremely strange... and yet all the way through the writing is of such a quality - beautiful passages of description, moments of great insight into human nature, and I can imagine vividly the characters I've just spent two days reading about. Not one for the tube though. A really, really odd book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Infinities is a satirical, philosophical and very clever book. It was well worth the time to read, but I can't help thinking it's missing something. And I suspect that it will strongly divide opinion - you may read it and think it is a masterpiece, but you may well read it and be left cold.

Let me try to explain.

Firstly, the book has several passages which deal with some of the deepest human and metaphysical questions: what is it to be alive or dead? What is love? What is the nature of reality?

With a philosophy background I hugely enjoyed these bits - for example early on in the book one of the main characters asks "How can he be a self and others others since the others too are selves, to themselves?" Good stuff.

Secondly, one of the narrators is the mythical god Hermes. In my opinion Banville executes this narration perfectly, and the passages where Hermes describes humanity from the perspective of a mischievous and ever-so-slightly envious deity are just brilliant. The author brings remarkable insight into the plight of us mere mortals, and it is a delight to read.

For me, these two aspects of the book are enough to make it well worth the read. And I would imagine that some readers will fall in love with the descriptive passages in the book - giving it five stars and calling it a masterpiece.

Yet while it's a collection of impressive insights and clever literary devices, somehow the sum seems less than the parts. It didn't help that the characters failed to excite me much. This is why I couldn't give it five stars, much as I think the book probably deserves them.

I haven't read
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've just finished this book and am feeling exhilerated. I can think of no other author who writes descriptions as wonderfully as John Banville, his use of language is amazing - and often he uses words I don't recognise which somehow adds to the enjoyment of reading his work.

As the previous reviewers have said, this is a strange book. All the way through it is reminiscent of a play, with the narrator Hermes and his father Zeus directing the narrative and the players. As gods, they can interrupt and change things at their whim. They can take on the form of the other characters to cause mischief, make love to them, or put ideas in their heads. The fact that some of the basic facts of life and history had been altered in the world of this book added to the feeling that I was reading (and at the same time, strangely watching) a drama - it wasn't supposed to be our world. I suspect there are references that I am not clever or educated enough to have picked up, but one of the main characters, Helen, is an actress and her mind often wanders to other plays in which she has acted.

The action takes place over the course of one day in a country house. Old Adam Godley is dying, and his family and other characters have gathered around him. Not an awful lot happens but the gods make subtle changes to ensure everything turns out all right, or as it should do, for all the characters.

Some parts of the book are downright bawdy, and earthy. There is much reference to the 'stink', 'pong' and 'whiff' of humans, and the bodily goings-on which is what being alive is all about. I too loved the philosopy; what distinguishes mortals from immortals being only two things - love and death and the fact that the gods, being denied these, crave them while humans take them for granted.
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