Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ancient Light by John Banville (2012l, 304 Pages)

My Prior Posts on John Banville

Ancient Light is the third novel I have read by John Banville.  Prior to this I have read and posted on Body of Evidence and The Sea as well as two of his short stories.   Ancient Light won the Irish Book of the Year in 2012.  It is an amazing book, to my mind considerably better than the prior two of his books I read.  (I will keep this post brief as I am behind on my postings for ISSW3 which  now is scheduled to run until April 28.)  

The first person narrator of the book is a 65 year old stage actor, once well known, who spends most of the book recalling his affair with a woman he still at 65 calls "Mrs Grey".  She was thirty five or so and the mother of his best friend and he was fifteen.  What is so amazing about this book is how Banville lets us into the memories of the narrator, to see how he still sees the affair and how he sees Mrs Grey.   I think most people who have read Lolita will have it brought to mind.   The narrator never seems to realize what a horrible person Mrs Grey was, even to this day he still seems to idolize her.   The book is told largely though an interior monologue and the narrator, Alexander Cleave, often directly addresses the readers.   He is basically retired until he is offered a party in a movie.  He is married and he and his wife are still trying to deal with the suicide of their daughter ten years ago.   

Alexander can recall minute details of his erotic encounters with Mrs Gray, or maybe what he recalls his how the events of the past have come to reside in the depths of his consciousness.   

There is a great deal in this novel.  I found the language beautiful.  I think the best way to enjoy this book is just to accept that your are in the hands of a master and go along for the ride.  No everyone who has read this book likes it so if you can download a sample before you buy it.  

Please share your experience with John Banville's work with us.

Mel u

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