First Book Publish:2002
Books in series: 3
Avg. Book Rating:7.2
Characters: Alexander Cleave, Lydia Cleave, Quirke, Lily (Eclipse),
Eclipse (The Cleave Trilogy Book 1)
First published: February 4th 2002Rating: 7.34 stars
I laughed when I read one review that called this book a word pile collapsing into a jumble. Banville is one of those writers whose words are gorgeous (Life is everywhere, even in the stones, slow, secret, long enduring), but there’s a niggling joker on your shoulder groaning and snorting over the meandering, apparently directionless journey those words take you on. Oh, god, the Irish, it says, what masters of misery! all pallid, jiggling flesh and backed up drains. That, of course, is part of Banville’s, shall I say, charm? He renders a state of mind that is, finally, mesmerizing. You sink with his characters into the texture of their vivid gloom. Everything is highlighted, every odd memory inserted into a queer semblance of a plot. I read this after Ancient Light (which has more get up and go than Eclipse) and am beginning to think Banville is writing about writing – poor old Alex Cleave locked up there in his room sorting through a jumble sale of memory and plucking out the most salient. Cobbling them together as best he can, trying to make sense of them. It’s not a job for the weak.
Shroud (The Cleave Trilogy Book 2)
First published: June 7th 2004Rating: 7.32 stars
I read with surprise a UK review of Shroud by John Banville. It was quite critical saying that “a couple of passages midway point take the narrative clean off its hinges…a lesion in the book’s reality that never fully heals over.” The reviewer cites the main problem being Banville’s management of the points of view, particularly the merging of the two POVs in the middle of the novel. I noted the merging while reading it but found that it was (for me anyway) quite in keeping with the general tone of the book and with what I believe Banville was trying to achieve. This is not a spoiler and if anything will help future readers who are wondering what is happening around page 125 or so. As readers of the first book in the trilogy Eclipse will be aware, one of the two main characters Cass Cleave is mad. “She looked at her watch and sighed. A single, gloating voice began whispering in her head.” Or this: “That was how it was with her, she was the plane and her mind was the jet engines trying to speed away from it. She was barely held together. The slightest jolt might make her fly apart into a million pieces.”It was quite a relief (in this book) to finally discover what Cass is suffering from and it’s no surprise either that in many ways Axel Vander is mad too. As he says himself so eloquently – his life has been a series of poses. “I lied to escape, I lied to be loved, I lied for placement and power; I lied to lie.” The book is filled with references and allusions to real and imaginary characters. There are Nabokian references cited by the reviewer. (Note to self: Read Nabokov.) Allusions to Harlequin, Cordelia and the life of Paul de Man and of Nietzsche. I love the rendering of Vander’s youth in Antwerp and the onslaught of Naziism. The scenes are believable and tense. Turin is very much present too. “They came out into a long, cobbled piazza. A bronze horseman strode motionless above them in the dark air, with a light from somewhere gleaming on his brow.” When Vander arrives in London during WWII he meets the very wealthy Laura – a fascinating character who had me reeling with a decision she makes. With Vander being a writer Banville has to be on top of his game when depicting the thoughts of this difficult, cantankerous and very old man. I loved this observation: “Some things, real things, seem to happen not in the world itself bit in the gap between actuality and the mind’s apprehending; the eye registers the event but the understanding lags.” Although much is gradually revealed by Vander to the reader we are still left wondering is the shroud still over our eyes? I was cursing Vander for a final tricky revelation at the same time praising his choice of just three simple words: TIME. NIGHT. WATER that finish one of the most important last scenes in the novel. I found that after swimming through page after page of brilliant adverbs, dazzling adjectives, clever verbs in abundance, when I came upon these three simple words that the effect on me as a reader was staggering! How they stood out! How powerful they were! How powerful John Banville’s prose is. He is my new favourite writer!
Ancient Light (The Cleave Trilogy Book 3)
First published: June 30th 2012Rating: 7.16 stars
The 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.