John Banville: Other Reading

29 June 2012

If you enjoyed The Sea, see which other of John Banville's novels are waiting to be read.

 

The Infinities 

Old Adam Godley’s time on earth is drawing to an end, and as his wife and children gather at the family home, little do they realize that they are not the only ones who have come to observe the spectacle.

The mischievous Greek gods, too, have come; as tensions fray and desire bubbles over, their spying soon becomes intrusion becomes intervention, until the mortals’ lives – right before their eyes – seem to be changing faster than they can cope with.

Overflowing with bawdy humour, Banville has allowed his twinkling eye to rove through memories of the past and relationships of the present in this moving family drama. The Infinities is both a salacious delight and a penetrating exploration of the terrifying, wonderful, immutable plight of being human.

‘This is unequivocally a work of brilliance.’ Justin Cartwright, Spectator

‘Written in such saturatedly beautiful, luminous prose that every page delights, startles and uplifts.’ The Times

 

The Book of Evidence 

Freddie Montgomery has committed two crimes. He stole a small Dutch master from a wealthy family friend, and he murdered a chambermaid who caught him in the act.

He has little to say about the dead girl. He killed her, he says, because he was physically capable of doing so. It made perfect sense to smash her head in with a hammer. What he cannot understand, and would desperately like to know, is why he was so moved by an unattributed portrait of a middle-aged woman that he felt compelled to steal it . . .

This darkly compelling confession of an improbable murderer was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize.

‘Banville has excelled himself in a flawlessly flowing prose whose lyricism, patrician irony and aching sense of loss are reminiscent of Lolita’ Observer

The Book of Evidence is a major work of fiction in which every suave moment calmly detonates to show the murderous gleam within. Banville writes a dangerous and clear-running prose and has a grim gift of seeing people’s souls’ Don DeLillo

 

The Untouchable 

Victor Maskell has been betrayed. After the announcement in the Commons and the hasty revelation of his double life of wartime espionage, his disgrace is public, his knighthood revoked, his position as curator of the Queen’s pictures terminated. There are questions to be answered. For whom has he been sacrificed? To what has he sacrificed his life?

‘No novel burrowed deeper beneath my skin than The Untouchable . . . Prose of great elegance, applied to a sardonic narrative, created an atmosphere at once austere, chilling and utterly believable’ John Coldstream, Daily Telegraph

‘Brilliant displays of power and control . . . magnificently written and, in its exploration of inhumanity, startlingly humane’ Alex Clark, Guardian

 

Shroud 

Axel Vander, distinguished intellectual and elderly academic, is not the man he seems. When a letter arrives out of the blue, threatening to unveil his secrets – and carefully concealed identity – Vander travels to Turin to meet its author. There, muddled by age and alcohol, unable always to distinguish fact from fiction, Vander comes face to face with the woman who has the knowledge to unmask him, Cass Cleave. However, her sense of reality is as unreliable as his, and the two are quickly drawn together, their relationship dark, disturbed and doomed to disaster from its very start.

‘In beautiful, lucid prose John Banville describes a tragedy so strongly rooted in history and character that, like all real tragedies, it could not happen otherwise’ The Times

 

Athena 

Morrow – a clerkish, middle-aged type encumbered with a chain-smoking dying aunt and a considerable talent for wallowing – is at a loose end when, on two separate occasions, he is beckoned up the stairs of an empty Dublin house. The first is an offer of dubious work, and Morrow soon becomes caught up in a conspiracy to authenticate a series of fake paintings. The second, possibly even odder, is an offer of a love – of a sort. Written in typically luminous prose and featuring a rich cast of characters, Athena is a paean to art, painting, and love, in all its mercurial richness.

‘Sleek, beautiful, breathtakingly cunning prose’ Sunday Times

 

Eclipse

Alexander 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 travelling 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

 

Read an extract from The Sea

 

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