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Athena Unknown Binding – May 16, 1995


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (May 16, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679405216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679405214
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,739,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While beautifully written and filled with intriguing questions about the nature of truth and the reliability of memory, Banville's new novel is neither as emotionally compelling as The Book of Evidence nor as stylistically challenging as Ghosts, with which it forms a loose trilogy. Although his name is now Morrow, the narrator of this shadowy tale involving stolen paintings and a doomed love affair is probably?but only probably?Frederick Montgomery, the tortured protagonist of Evidence and the unnamed narrator of Ghosts. There are several references to the murder for which Montgomery was imprisoned, and if the narrator is not the same man, then why does Inspector Hackett recognize him and assume his knowledge of the artwork purloined from Whitewater House, scene of Montgomery's crime? In fact, the narrator, who apparently has some fine-art expertise, has been asked by the menacing underworld figure Morden to authenticate these paintings, eight 17th-century works whose subject matter?various stages in the ever-shifting balance of power between men and women?mirrors the progress of Morrow's affair with a mysterious woman he calls "A." The couple's sexual games grow increasingly dangerous as the police close in on the stolen paintings, but nothing is what it seems: the artworks are forgeries?or are they? Morrow's lover is Morden's wife?or is she? Banville creates a dreamlike world of pervasive unease and a sense of loss fueled by the narrator's unspecified guilt (he may also be responsible for a series of gruesome murders), but the point of all this angst is never quite clear. Nonetheless, the novel's evocative physical detail and provocative metaphysical musings make an impact.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Art historian Morrow is hired by small-time crook Morden to authenticate and catalog a cache of eight paintings stored in a decrepit house. As Morden and his seedy assistant, Francie, lead Morrow through the house, a delicious sense of impending menace is evoked by simple things: the rising staircase; a door standing ajar; an intense, bright light; and a watching dog. Morrow's brief glimpse through a crumbling wall of a woman's leg in stockings and black high heels is the beginning of his increasingly destructive sexual obsession with the woman, identified only as A. Irish writer Banville has created such a fantastic feeling of suspense and foreboding in his slightly surreal world?with hints that Morrow may be the same ex-convict narrator of his earlier novels, The Book of Evidence (LJ 3/1/90) and Ghosts (LJ 9/15/93)?that the somewhat anticlimactic ending is a letdown. But Banville's sure way with language, style, and character development make this essential for literary collections. Highly recommended.?Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of thirteen previous novels including The Book of Evidence, which was shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize. He has received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin.

Customer Reviews

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I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the English language.
Ulf Wolf
Yet another book by John Banville that one can only characterise as a work of art - Why this is so is hard to explain to the uninitiate.
Daniel Myers
This is the 4th work by Mr. John Banville that I have read, and I am nearly finished with his fifth.
taking a rest

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ulf Wolf on January 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
One common adage in books about writing is to "kill the babies," in other words, get rid of those eloquent and delicious similes or turns of phrase that are will arrest the reader and pull him or her out of the story. Well, Banville violates this principle left and right, much to the delight of at least this particular reader. There is hardly paragraph, much less a page, that does not stop you cold you with image or simile or metaphor or simply brilliant construction, and you gladly forgive him each and every time.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the English language. It is written by someone who probably loves it even more.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on December 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yet another book by John Banville that one can only characterise as a work of art - Why this is so is hard to explain to the uninitiate. Banville's prose is both subtle and oceanic. Above all, it is seductive. Things always seem to begin simply enough in his works. But, somewhere along the way, one is taken suddenly by the realisation that s/he is under the spell of a virtuoso, a master craftsman, nay, a magician of sorts who turns every subject that falls under his pen into a work of high literary art.

The plot, such as it is, has been covered by the other reviewers. I have just a couple addenda: I'm not so sure that this book and Ghosts are sequels, as such, to The Book of Evidence or if it's particularly important if they are. Banville's narrator, especially in Ghosts, is much-taken with the notion of multiple or parallel universes. That seems to me the best way to read these works, as following Mr. Montgomery into entirely different worlds. ----Also, a bit of a personal peeve, one wishes one could get through a Banville work without his using the term "flocculent" to describe everything from clouds to pubic hair (herein). But this is a quibble.

Below a couple citations of Banvillian prose here:

The light in the room, the colour of tarnished tin, was the light of childhood. I would see again afternoons like this in the far past and myself as a child at a window watching the day fail and the rooks settling in the high, bare trees and the rain like time itself drifting down. p.151

But this is how I want it to be, all smeary with tears and lymph and squirming spawn and glass-green mucus: my snail-trail. P.220

And so it is, a lulling, seductive, dark snail-trail of poetic prose to the narrator's beloved. Follow it!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
The old dilemma: award stars according to the author's mastery (close to 5) or to reflect my own enjoyment of the book (2 or 3 at most)? There, right on the front cover, is a quotation from the San Francisco Chronicle: "A thriller... by Ireland's master of the exquisite and uncanny whose brilliant use of prose narration places him in a league with Joyce and Beckett." True -- yet it made me reflect what a dubious legacy Joyce bequeathed to Irish intellectuals who followed after.

"My love. If words can reach whatever world you may be suffering in, then listen...." The book begins in words, with this incantation, and it continues in words. Not events, not characters, not time and place, not even any tangible reality, but words pure and by no means simple, creating the atmosphere of a dream that may at any moment turn into nightmare, words spun out, questioned, erased, words rich in apparent meanings that the next moment may well be denied. The narrator must have a past, but we are not told what it is; even his name, Morrow, is assumed, chosen almost at random and since regretted. His love is referred to within the same paragraph sometimes as "she" and sometimes as "you"; he calls her "A... It's not even the initial of her name, it's only a letter, but it sounds right, it feels right." The town house in which they meet seems impossibly vast at first description, though later it shrinks to more more normal proportions. Although some facts and details eventually emerge from the swirling verbal fog, the prevailing atmosphere is one of hallucination. Banville is indeed a master of words, but he uses them less to pin down normal meanings than to create a shifting web in which meaning itself is questioned.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By honstein@uiuc.edu on February 19, 1999
Format: Unknown Binding
Banville proves that Nabokov is not the only author who can envelope a reader in a plot of sensuality and obsession. Each reader who has had a tragic love affair (real or imagined) will see themself in this story of self deception.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Banville writes exquisitely. Athena should be read slowly, like a fine meal. Interested readers might be advised to read his Book of Evidence, then Ghosts, before turning to this one.
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