Ancient Light.

Author:Banville, John
Position:Book review

By John Banville

In his 17th novel, Irish author and Booker Award-winner John Banville reintroduces characters that readers first met in Eclipse (2000) and Shroud (2002). He has written an additional six novels as the best-selling crime writer Benjamin Black.


THE STORY: "Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother," recalls aging British actor Alexander Cleave. Writing a memoir of first love, Cleave revisits the fateful summer when he, the 15-year-old son of an Irish lodging house keeper, was seduced by Mrs. Gray. But the sudden offer to portray disgraced literary critic Axel Vander in a docudrama dredges up another set of memories--those surrounding the mysterious suicide of Alex's adult daughter, Cass. As he pieces both of these stories together, Alex begins to question everything he thinks he knows. "Time and Memory are a fussy firm of interior decorators," he realizes, "always shifting the furniture about."

Knopf. 304 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307957054

Cleveland Plain Dealer ****

"Banville's brilliant prose occasionally seems quite lush, that of a 'chap who writes like Walter Pater in a delirium' as Alex says about the screenwriter of the docudrama. ... Alex is a wonderfully alive character, one deserving respect, still able to absorb meaning from the Ancient Light of his past." DANIEL MELNICK

Guardian (UK) ****

"Banville's ostensible theme throughout might be the fictions we tell ourselves in the name of memory, the self-protection and the self-harm that the past affords us, but they never threaten chilly abstraction, or even formal riddling of the kind favoured by Paul Auster. His writing is too precise, too beautifully freighted with the described world for that." TIM ADAMS

Independent (UK) ****

"Many of John Banville's customary concerns are present in this bedazzling new novel: memory and invention, questions of identity and make-believe, names and aliases, transgressions and transformations. ... Ancient Light is not concerned to convey the sociological realities of small-town Ireland in the 1950s; rather, at its core is a moment out of time, though universal in its implications, and intensely remembered, while at the same time taking account of all the memory's lapses, tricks and stratagems." PATRICIA CRAIG

Minneapolis Star Tribune ****

"Though Banville is scant on plot, he compensates with page upon page of luxurious, lyrical prose. ... Ancient Light is a brilliant...

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