Book reviews from serendipity

Ontario, Canada

Number of reviews
4
Average review
serendipity’s average rating is 4 of 5 Stars.

Shroud

by John Banville

On Jan 24 2011, Serendipity said:
Another fine example of John Banville's eloquent prose being used to tell a twisted, deceitful story concerning notions of the Self and reality. Axel Vander, the snobbish, literate, ageing narrator, has fled the sunny coast of California (where he is a celebrated academic modelled in part after Paul De Man) and returned to the Old World; specifically Turin to meet and confront a young research student who has unwittingly uncovered a great lie at the heart of Vander's life: that as a youth in Antwerp he wrote anti-semitic articles in a right-wing journal. (Something similar was revealed of De Man after he died). But there are deeper secrets than that, and the novel unfolds them at a langorous pace. Now old and dying, Vander begins an impossible love-affair with his young unmasker. As usual with Banville, the prose is exquisite to the point where excessive praise seems superfluous. The plot is of less interest than the delicious descriptive language, and the setting allows Banville to explore the meaning of "meaning" and fakery (the setting of Turin is not coincidental: the Shroud of Turin is both a forgery and an object of adoration, and Turin is also where Nietzsche lived when he was going insane, and Banville even has Vander and his young companion, Cassandra, visit the philosopher's home). As seems usual with Banville, there is a requisite dose of miserable sex, unhappy ghosts, haunting memories, lies, tenderness and torture. His unreliable narrator, Vander, is both despicable and pitiable, never an easy character for an author to create. This novel will appeal to readers who like their literature to be intelligent and challenging and who like words for the sheer joy of them more than the necessary but dull trappings of plot. An important work by an important writer.

Shroud

by John Banville

On Mar 31 2010, Serendipity said:
serendipity rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
Warning: here be SPOILERS....Another fine example of Banville's eloquent prose being used to tell a twisted, deceitful story concerning notions of the Self and reality. Axel Vander, the snobbish, literate, ageing narrator, has fled the sunny coast of California (where he is a celebrated academic modelled in part after Paul De Man) and returned to the Old World; specifically Turin, to meet and confront a young research student who has unwittingly uncovered a great lie at the heart of Vander's life: that as a youth in Holland he wrote anti-semitic articles in a right-wing journal. But there are deeper secrets than that, not the least of which is that he isn't Axel Vander at all, but a Jewish friend of Vander's who appropriated his name after hearing that Vander had been killed in the early part of the war. Now old and dying, Vander begins an impossible love-affair with his young un-masker. The setting, of course, is significant as the Shroud of Turin is both an object of worship and a fake. As usual with Banville, the prose is exquisite to the point where excessive praise seems superfluous. The plot is of less interest than the delicious descriptive language, and the setting allows Banville to explore the meaning of "meaning", fakery, etc, along with his requisite dose of sex, unhappy ghosts, haunting memories, lies, tenderness and torture. Brilliant. I waited a long time to get around to reading this novel, and I wasn't disappointed.

The Book of Evidence

by John Banville

On Oct 23 2009, Serendipity said:
serendipity rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
Written in precise, almost cold prose, Banville's masterpiece (and really, which of his novels isn't a masterpiece?) tells the story of Freddie Montgomery, formerly a brilliant mathematician who's fallen on hard times in the Meditteranean where he and his wife have been living, drinking with and cadging money from the local colourful ex-pat community. In debt, Freddie returns home to Ireland and attempts to retrieve paintings his widowed mother sold to a family friend. This sets off a series of events that result in Freddie stealing a Dutch master and killing a serving-girl, before going on the run and hiding out with another old family friend, Charie. That bald descritpiton of the plot does nothing to describe just how wonderful this novel is: part memoir, part confession, concerned with mathematics, philosophy, the nature of evil, sex, death, and other themes Banville regularly explores. Based in part on a real-life murder case that shocked Ireland in the 1980's and had an interesting political denouement, this novel is easily one of Banville's best. Should have won the Booker for him in 1989. The finest fiction writer at work today.

The Book of Evidence

by John Banville

On Sep 12 2009, Serendipity said:
serendipity rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
Written in precise, almost cold prose, Banville's masterpiece (and really, which of his novels isn't a masterpiece?) tells the story of Freddie Montgomery, formerly a brilliant mathematician who's fallen on hard times in the Meditteranean where he and his wife have been living, drinking with and cadging money from the local colourful ex-pat community. In debt, Freddie returns home to Ireland and attempts to retrieve paintings his widowed mother sold to a family friend. This sets off a series of events that result in Freddie stealing a Dutch master and killing a serving-girl, before going on the run and hiding out with another old family friend, Charlie. That bald descritpiton of the plot does nothing to describe just how wonderful this novel is: part memoir, part confession, concerned with mathematics, philosophy, the nature of evil, sex, death, and other themes Banville regularly explores. Based in part on a real-life murder case that shocked Ireland in the 1980's and had an interesting political denouement, this novel is easily one of Banville's best. Should have won the Booker for him in 1989. The finest fiction writer at work today.