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Customer Review

on 6 October 2002
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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Product Details

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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