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Aug 8, 2019
Ancient Light
John BanvilleThe Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea gives us a brilliant, profoundly moving new novel about an actor in the twilight of his life and his career: a meditation on love and loss, and on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives.

Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with the depth of character, the clarifying lyricism and the sly humor that have marked all of John Banville’s extraordinary works. And it is the question that haunts Alexander Cleave, an actor in the twilight of his career and of his life, as he plumbs the memories of his first—and perhaps only—love (he, fifteen years old, the woman more than twice his age, the mother of his best friend; the situation impossible, thrilling, devouring and finally devastating) . . . and of his daughter, lost to a kind of madness of mind and heart that Cleave can only fail to understand. When his dormant acting career is suddenly, inexplicably revived with a movie role portraying a man who may not be who he says he is, his young leading lady—famous and fragile—unwittingly gives him the opportunity to see with aching clarity the “chasm that yawns between the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done.”

Ancient Light is a profoundly moving meditation on love and loss, on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives, on how invention shapes memory and memory shapes the man. It is a book of spellbinding power and pathos from one of the greatest masters of prose at work today.
Athena
John Banville
The Blue Guitar: A novel
John BanvilleJohn Banville, the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Sea and Ancient Light, now gives us a new novel—at once trenchant, witty, and shattering—about the intricacies of artistic creation, about theft, and about the ways in which we learn to possess one another, and to hold on to ourselves.

Equally self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating, our narrator, Oliver Otway Orme (“O O O. An absurdity. You could hang me over the door of a pawnshop”), is a painter of some renown and a petty thief who has never before been caught and steals only for pleasure. Both art and the art of thievery have been part of his “endless effort at possession,” but now he’s pushing fifty, feels like a hundred, and things have not been going so well. Having recognized the “man-killing crevasse” that exists between what he sees and any representation he might make of it, he has stopped painting. And his last act of thievery—the last time he felt its “secret shiver of bliss”—has been discovered. The fact that the purloined possession was the wife of the man who was, perhaps, his best friend has compelled him to run away—from his mistress, his home, his wife; from whatever remains of his impulse to paint; and from a tragedy that has long haunted him—and to sequester himself in the house where he was born. Trying to uncover in himself the answer to how and why things have turned out as they have, excavating memories of family, of places he has called home, and of the way he has apprehended the world around him (“one of my eyes is forever turning towards the world beyond”), Olly reveals the very essence of a man who, in some way, has always been waiting to be rescued from himself.
Book of Evidence
John Banville
The Book of Evidence, The Sea (Everyman's Library (Cloth))
John BanvilleTwo essential novels from one of the most imaginative writers of our time: The Sea, winner of the Man Booker prize, and The Book of Evidence, an unforgettable literary mystery short-listed for the Booker prize.

The Book of Evidence is a brilliantly disturbing portrait of an improbable murderer. Freddie Montgomery is an aimless, eccentric, and highly cultured man whose arrest for the murder of a servant girl prompts him to offer the reader an extended testimony. However, the evidence Freddie offers is not of his innocence, but of his life—of the circumstances that led to and (in his chillingly amoral mind) justified his grisly crime. Hauntingly reminiscent of Camus, Dostoevsky, and Nabokov, The Book of Evidence is among the most darkly compelling novels in international literature.

The Sea follows retired art historian Max Morden to the seaside town where he spent his childhood summers. Max is grieving the loss of his wife, Anna, but returning to the seaside brings back intense memories of the wealthy and mysterious family in whose presence he had first learned about love and loss. Banville’s exploration of the unpredictable power of memory—a force as treacherous as the sea that pulses through the story. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him—is at the center of this elegiac, vividly dramatic, beautifully written novel.
Eclipse
John BanvilleAlexander Cleave, actor, has left his career and his family behind and banished himself to his childhood home. He wants to retire from life, but finds this impossible in a house brimming with presences, some ghostly, some undeniably human. Memories, anxiety for the future and more particularly for his beloved but troubled daughter, conspire to distract him from his dreaming retirement. This humane and beautifully written story tells the tragic tale of a man, intelligent, preposterous and vulnerable, who in attempting to bring the performance to a close finds himself traveling inevitably towards a devastating denouement. 'This unsparing, compassionate, humane book demonstrates again that Banville is in a class of his own' - "Spectator". 'A contemporary fable of piercing sadness and melancholy beauty...This poetic novel deals with archetypal themes as well as painful truths about parental inadequacy and the limitations of love' - "Sunday Telegraph". 'In Eclipse Banville has created another important, challenging fiction. The book is ornately written, heartless in an honest fashion, profoundly interrogative of ideas of identity and, above all, spectacularly beautiful. It is, in a way that so many contemporary novels are not, a work of art' - "Observer".
Ghosts
John Banville
The Infinities
John BanvilleOn a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra’s “young man”—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.

But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: “We too are petty and vindictive,” he tells us, “just like you, when we are put to it.” As old Adam’s days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. . . .

Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being human—a dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today.
Mrs. Osmond: A novel
John BanvilleFrom the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, a dazzling and audacious new novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory.

Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naïve girl's experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and—as Isabel finds out too late—cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy. Banville follows James's story line to this point, but Mrs. Osmond is thoroughly Banville's own: the narrative inventiveness; the lyrical precision and surprise of his language; the layers of emotional and psychological intensity; the subtle, dark humor. And when Isabel arrives in Italy—along with someone else!—the novel takes off in directions that James himself would be thrilled to follow.
Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir
John BanvilleFrom the internationally acclaimed and Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and the Benjamin Black mysteries—a vividly evocative memoir that unfolds around the author's recollections, experience, and imaginings of Dublin.

As much about the life of the city as it is about a life lived, sometimes, in the city, John Banville's "quasi-memoir" is as layered, emotionally rich, witty, and unexpected as any of his novels. Born and bred in a small town a train ride away from Dublin, Banville saw the city as a place of enchantment when he was a child, a birthday treat, the place where his beloved, eccentric aunt lived. And though, when he came of age and took up residence there, and the city became a frequent backdrop for his dissatisfactions (not playing an identifiable role in his work until the Quirke mystery series, penned as Benjamin Black), it remained in some part of his memory as fascinating as it had been to his seven-year-old self. And as he guides us around the city, delighting in its cultural, architectural, political, and social history, he interweaves the memories that are attached to particular places and moments. The result is both a wonderfully idiosyncratic tour of Dublin, and a tender yet powerful ode to a formative time and place for the artist as a young man.